Law and Social Movements

« Return to Course Catalog

One Section Available to Choose From:

Course DatesLengthMeeting TimesStatusFormatInstructor(s)CRN
July 19, 2021 - August 18, 20217/19 - 8/184 WeeksOnlineWaitlistedOnlineKevin Escudero

Course Description

What potential does the law hold to bring about transformative social change in today’s society? Relatedly, what strategies and approaches have social movement activists utilized to engage public interest lawyers and the broader legal system?

We will answer these questions through case studies of various 20th and 21st century social movements including the Civil Rights, immigrant rights, LGTBQ+ rights, and Environmental Justice movements. Students will examine the messages activists sought to promote as part of their efforts, the reception of their cause by local community members, and the effectiveness (or non-effectiveness) of their campaigns in working to promote and/or achieve social change. Through an analysis of material presented in these different, yet complementary forms and completion of the course assignments students will examine the plight of these social movement organizers to understand the context from which these grievances are being made.

Readings will draw from sociological, anthropological, legal, and historical texts supplemented by excerpts from legal cases. While course readings include excerpts from legal opinions and briefs, the emphasis is on a sociology/anthropology of law approach which seeks to highlight the constructed nature of the law through the participation of multiple social actors.

As part of this course, every student will create an Action Plan to apply the concepts from this course to engage in social change in their community. Materials for the course will be presented through a variety of mediums including pre-recorded Zoom sessions with activists, films, and weekly assigned readings. Students will complete online discussion posts outlining their preliminary reactions to the readings, develop an OpEd on a pressing social issue of their choosing, and workshop their writing with the support of the instructor. Students interested in majoring in a social science field in college would be well served by the discussions and analytical approaches utilized in the course.


This course is part of the Leadership Institute Online, a four-week academic program that helps students cultivate the knowledge, skills, and attitudes associated with effective and socially responsible leadership. This unique program consists of two core elements: academic content based on the course of one's choosing and leadership content common to all courses, including the development of an Action Plan.

Enrollment in this program requires participation in one-hour synchronous or "live" sessions every Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30am Eastern Standard Time (EST) - 12:30pm (EST). Other than participation in these two weekly synchronous or "live" sessions, participation in the course may be completed daily, at any time.

Additional programmatic information may be found here.

Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Information

  • Course Code: CEAC0928

Program Information

Leadership Institute

Brown's Pre-College Program focused on developing socially responsible leaders and creating positive change. For students completing grades 9-12 by June 2021.

Visit Program Page View Course Pricing Information Sessions Learn How to Apply