Course Syllabus

“I happen temporarily to occupy this big White House. I am a living witness that any one of your children may look to come here as my father’s child has.”
Abraham Lincoln, August 22, 1864

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

 

[PRINTABLE SYLLABUS]

Required  Text

  • H.W. Brands, American Dreams: The United States Since 1945 (New York: Penguin, 2010) [RESERVE]

Additional Readings

  • David W. Blight, “For Something beyond the Battlefield”: Frederick Douglass and the Struggle for the Memory of the Civil War,” Journal of American History 75 (March 1989): 1156-1178 [JSTOR]

First Essay  –Nineteenth Century

On Friday, February 25, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on a “long” nineteenth-century topic (through WWI) provided to them near the beginning of that week. All essays must include both primary and secondary source material from the assigned readings properly cited using Chicago-style footnotes. Outside research is allowed but not required. Additional information will be available on the annotated assignment guidelines at the course site. Essays will be graded on depth of analysis, use of evidence, and quality of prose. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

Second Essay –Twentieth Century

On Friday, April 1, students will submit a 3-5 page typed, double-spaced essay on a mid-twentieth-century topic (through early Cold War) provided to them near the beginning of that week. All essays must include both primary and secondary source material from the assigned readings properly cited using Chicago-style footnotes.  Outside research is allowed but not required. Additional information will be available on the annotated assignment guidelines at the course site. Essays will be graded on depth of analysis, use of evidence, and quality of prose. Late essays will be penalized up to 5 points each day.

Oral History Project

The highlight of this semester will be a multi-media oral history project that students will undertake to illustrate an important episode or trend covered in H.W. Brands’ American Dreams.  By Friday, April 29, students should post an annotated transcript (at least 500 words) from their initial interview(s) at the course website.  By Thursday, May 12, students should post a full oral history essay that successfully incorporates quoted material from their interview(s) while also putting them into thoughtful historical context using not only American Dreams, but also other relevant primary and secondary sources.  Essays should cover about 4-6 pages and should include Chicago-style footnotes.   Students must also embed a short video documentary (about 1 to 2 minutes) incorporating either audio or video clips from their oral history interviews.  Additional information will be available on the annotated assignment guidelines at the course site. Projects will be graded on depth of analysis, research effort, and quality of prose. Late research submissions will be penalized 5 points per day.

Grade Distribution

  • Class Participation                                20 percent
  • First essay –19th century                      25 percent
  • Second essay –20th  century                 25 percent
  • Oral history project                               30 percent

 

Day Date Discussion Topic Reading Assignment
Tuesday 1/25 Methods & Expectations
Thursday 1/27 Reconstruction Prince exhibit
Tuesday 2/1 Second Founding Dickinson & Slavery exhibit
Thursday 2/3 Jim Crow Blight article
Tuesday 2/8 Gilded Age Yawp, chap. 16
Thursday 2/10 American West Yawp, chap. 17
Tuesday 2/15 Urbanization Yawp, chap. 18
Thursday 2/17 Imperialism Yawp, chap. 19
Tuesday 2/22 Progressive Era Yawp, chap. 20
Thursday 2/24 World War I Yawp, chap. 21
Friday 2/25 First essay due By 5pm via email 
Tuesday 3/1 1920s Yawp, chap. 22
Thursday 3/3 Great Depression Yawp, chap. 23
Tuesday 3/8 World War II Yawp, chap. 24
Thursday 3/10 1945 Brands, chap 1
Tuesday 3/15 NO CLASS (Spring Break)
Thursday 3/17 NO CLASS (Spring Break)
 
Tuesday 3/22 Origins of Cold War Brands, chap 2 + Forry
Thursday 3/24 Anti-Communism Brands, chap 3 + Meier
Tuesday 3/29 1950s Brands, chap 4 + Menkes
Thursday 3/31 Civil Rights Brands, chap 5 + Glick
Friday 4/1 Second essay due By 5pm via email 
Tuesday 4/5 Vietnam War Brands, chap 6 + Thornton + Ferry + Huber
Thursday 4/7 Watergate Brands, chap 7 + McCarthy + Goldberg + Pasquali
Tuesday 4/12 1970s Brands, chap 8 + Weisman
Thursday 4/14 Reagan Realignment Brands, chap 9 + Snyder
Tuesday 4/19 1980s Brands, chap 10 + Drabkin
Thursday 4/21 End of Cold War Brands, chap 11 + Cohane
Tuesday 4/26 1990s Brands, chaps 12 + Kim
Thursday 4/28 Culture Wars Brands, chaps 13
Friday 4/29 Oral history interviews due By 5pm via post at course site
Tuesday 5/3 9-11 and beyond Brands, chaps. 14-15
Thursday 5/5 Lessons & Legacies
Thursday 5/12 Oral history projects due By 5pm via post at course site