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IDS 340: Making Democracy and Social Justice in the U.S. (Professor Ardon) [Spring 2022]

IDS 340 Research Assignment


Despite its rich diversity, American society continues to grapple with inequality and discrimination at every level (individual, community, institutional, systemic, structural), originating from complex historical, cultural, and social conditions that affect daily life for all people living in the United States. Social justice movements have played a significant role in shedding light to enduring forms of discrimination and intensifying the discourse and action towards social change through people power, or the grassroots engagement and mobilization of everyday people. Nevertheless, social movements have characteristically emerged as diverse alliances formed by people of all walks of life. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, for example, achieved monumental gains that shifted policy as well as cultural values about equality and equity, more than in any other period in recent American history, through rainbow coalitions that included women, youth, people of color, community leaders, educators, students, organizations, elected representatives, and others seeking social change. The purpose of this essay is to examine the role/function of social justice movements in undoing discrimination and making democracy and social change possible in the United States.



  • Write a research essay that critically examines one social movement in the United States and how it addresses issues of discrimination. You may focus your research analysis on social movements of the past or the present.
  • Using the intersectionality framework, the essay should evaluate the social movement’s challenges/opportunities for undoing forms of discrimination and/or achieving social change.
  • Find, evaluate, and use 4-5 relevant peer-reviewed scholarly articles to support your argument. You may use other sources and a combination of course topics and/or course readings in addition to the required scholarly articles.
  • Use the Essay Grading Rubric to evaluate your essay’s writing, analysis, and formatting.
  • Some questions you should ask yourself as you write your essay:
    • What was the catalyst that brought about the social movement? What social event happened that ignited the movement?
    • How is the social movement legitimized or delegitimized in society?
    • What are the social issues or forms of discrimination the movement tries to address?
    • What leadership approach does the social movement apply? Is it grassroots (led by everyday people)? Is it a rainbow coalition (led by diverse groups like people of color, women, youth? Is it a top-down approach (led by elected officials or people with economic/political power)?
    • What level of change is it sought (community, institutional, systemic, structural, etc.)?
    • What are the opportunities and/or challenges to achieve social change?