Syllabus: Modern America

us history since the civil war @ suny brockport, spring 2021.

Ida B. Wells.

Course Overview

In this course we explore US history since the Civil War ended in 1865. Yes, the course will ask you to learn about names and dates. Those are the basic building blocks of understanding the past. But that’s just the beginning of what it means to study history! History, it turns out, isn’t just names and dates. Not at all. The past may be a big mess of names and dates, but history is about how we try to make sense of that big mess, how we organize it selectively, and how we must forge a clarifying path through the sprawl of the past by deciding what matters the most, how it matters, and why it matters. So, yes there are names and dates, but history is most of all about the craft of developing evidence-based interpretations of the past that are in conversation with other, competing, evidence-based interpretations. One might even say that history is one big, ongoing argument about what happened. Welcome to the conversation. Studying history will help you ground your sense of what it means to be alive in 2021 by understanding better some of the story of how we got here. Studying history will help you improve your ability to handle complexity of information. You will improve your capacity to read and process materials more critically and accurately. And you will be able to work on your skills of analytic writing, communication, and expression by practicing how to be more precise in how you develop an interpretation inductively from your close, critical readings of evidence.

What You Will Learn

In this introductory history course, you will:

  • learn about historical facts (the names and dates) concerning US history since 1865
  • learn about historical interpretations concerning US history since 1865
  • explore larger questions of what history is and how it matters to your life

How will we do this, you ask? By engaging wholeheartedly with the material in this course:

  • You’ll become a better thinker, writer, and speaker.
  • You’ll be able to handle complexity of evidence and organize facts into a narrative and an argument.
  • Some of you might even decide to become history majors or minors.
  • Others of you will carry what you learn in this class into other courses, activities, jobs, personal experiences, and your important civic role in the United States.

You will learn:

  • what happened when and who did it in the American past.
  • why it matters, what the stakes are of the American past.
  • how to notice and analyze change and continuity over time.
  • how to notice and analyze structures of power, how they have developed over time, and why.
  • how to handle historical complexity through close analysis, paraphrasing, and interpretive questioning.
  • how others have interpreted and debated the past (what we call historiography).
  • how to describe this historiography accurately and put different interpretations into conversation with each other.
  • how to frame your own historical questions.
  • how to develop close, accurate, compelling interpretations of historical evidence yourself.
  • how to improve your skills of developing a historical narrative.
  • how to use evidence to develop a historical thesis, an argument-driven, evidence-based historical narrative.
  • how to position your historical thesis in relation to historiographical debates, or the disagreements other historians have had about the past.
  • how to paraphrase effectively.
  • how to use source citation using Chicago Manual of Style effectively and accurately.

By exploring how our world came to be, the study of history fosters the critical knowledge, breadth of perspective, intellectual growth, and communication and problem-solving skills. These will help you lead a purposeful life, become an active citizen, and achieve career success.

How This Course Works

This is a hybrid online course. That means it is partly asynchronous and self-directed. You will complete reading and writing assignments on your own, independently, following the deadlines listed on the course website. We also meet synchronously, once a week, to discuss what we are studying together. These are required meetings. Synchronous meetings mean you need a computer with a camera and microphone or some device that allows you to access the course and a decent Internet connection. Please confer with SUNY Brockport if you do not have access to this equipment and technical requirements. Please show up for class at our regular meeting times (there are a few built-in breaks throughout the semester too). Ideally you can turn your camera on and keep your microphone muted except when you wish to speak. A headset or earbuds with microphone often help a lot too for blocking out extraneous noise. You will also be well-served by finding a quiet, calm place from which to attend class online.

Digital learning during the pandemic is challenging for all of us and I will be as flexible as possible with your particular needs and situations according to SUNY Brockport policy. So long as you are participating in the course in good faith, we can still learn a lot together even though we are doing so under these extraordinary circumstances.

Digital Tools

We will use a few digital tools in the course to facilitate our study together:

1. Computer with Camera and Microphone/Internet Access
  • A computer with a camera and microphone or some similar device that allows you to access the course.
  • A decent Internet connection.
  • A headset or earbuds with microphone.
  • A quiet place from which to attend class.
2. Canvas (Not Blackboard)

I use Canvas instead of Blackboard. In most ways, it works the same as Blackboard, but I think its design, navigation, and performance are far superior. You will receive an invitation to join the course Canvas website at the start of the semester. Think of our Canvas website as the central syllabus, schedule, and assignment submission tool for the course—home base.

3. VoiceThread

VoiceThread delivers course lectures to you digitally. Links will be provided to each lecture on our course Canvas website. There will be required annotation assignments using VoiceThread’s comments function. These allow you to begin to process the primary and secondary sources we will be investigating in the course and set up the writing assignments you will complete in the course.

4. Microsoft Word

We use Microsoft Word, which you can download through Brockport On the Hub, for writing assignments.

5. Zoom

We will use Zoom as our online classroom for synchronous discussions. You can sign up for a free Zoom account if you do not already have one.

6. Additional Digital Tools

We may employ additional digital tools in the course, such as Perusall or Google Docs. If so, I will provide instructions for how to use them.

If you have questions about the technical details of the course, or about the hybrid nature of the course, please feel free to contact me.

Reading

We will be doing a fair, but manageable amount of reading and viewing for this course.

Writing
  • Weekly annotation assignments for formative assessment help me to gauge how you are processing and making sense of course content. They also serve as first steps toward effective writing assignments.
  • One analytic formula worksheet for writing history and historiography.
  • Three analytic essays based on assessing Eric Foner’s interpretations in Give Me Liberty! by placing close, analytic readings of primary source material from Voices of Freedom into dialogue with Foner’s arguments.
  • A Final essay on a theme in the course, which may use sources previously analyzed in the short essays as well as additional primary sources from the course in relation to a specific theme. The essay must develop an evidence-based interpretation with precision and expressed in graceful, stylish prose.
  • An Optional Brockport Historians essay that develops an analysis of two or more of the optional items written by your Brockport Department of History faculty.
Discussion
  • We will join together remotely to practice the art and craft of historical discussion: sharing ideas, articulating perspectives, asking good questions, and developing both individual and shared understandings of the past we are studying together.

Schedule

WEEK 01 Planting A Flag in Modern America

  • This Week Overview
  • Asynchronous Lecture—01 Planting a Flag: Iwo Jima’s Many Lives in Modern America
  • Synchronous Discussion—Planting a Flag When History Is On the Line
  • Assignment—InQuizitive, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Analyzing Images How Tos
  • Assignment—Course Contract and Student Info Card

WEEK 02 Is Reconstruction Unfinished? America After the Civil War, 1865-1877

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 02
  • Asynchronous Lecture—02 What Was Reconstruction? Is it Over or Still Going On?
  • Synchronous Discussion—”What Is Freedom?”: Reconstruction, 1865-1877
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 15, “What Is Freedom?”: Reconstruction, 1865-1877
  • Assignment—History on the Line

WEEK 03 America’s Gilded Age, 1877-1890

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 03
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 16, “‘America’s Gilded Age, 1870-1890,” 447-505
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 16, 28-52, pay particular attention to Carnegie (104), Second Declaration of Independence (106), George (107), and Saum Song Bo (109, especially in relation to Douglass, “The Composite Nation”)
  • Asynchronous Lecture—03 The Hog Squeal of the Universe: Industrialization, Urbanization, Integration, Commodification
  • Asynchronous Lecture—04 Where Does the Weekend Come From? Americans Respond to Industrialization
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 16, America’s Gilded Age, 1870-1890

WEEK 04 Freedom’s Boundaries, At Home and Abroad, 1865-1900

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 04
    • Review Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 16, “‘America’s Gilded Age, 1870-1890,” The Subjugation of the Plains Indians-Myth, Reality, and the Wild West, pp. 493-501
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 17, “Freedom’s Boundaries, at Home and Abroad, 1890-1900,” 508-539
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 17, 53-74, pay particular attention to Du Bois (113), Wells (114), and Aquinaldo (117)
    • Hopi Petition Asking for Title to Their Lands (1894), scroll down to read the transcription, especially p. 7
    • Elk v. Wilkins, 112 U.S. 94 (1884), Syllabus (full case optional if you are interested)
  • Asynchronous Lecture—05 From US Settler Colonialism to Formal Empire
  • Asynchronous Lecture—06 The Nadir: Jim Crow
  • Synchronous Discussion—Freedom’s Boundaries, At Home and Abroad, 1865-1900
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 17: Freedom’s Boundaries, at Home and Abroad, 1890-1900
  • Assignment—The Analytic Formula Worksheet for Writing History and Historiography

WEEK 05 The Progressive Era, 1900-1916

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 05
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 18, “Chapter 18: The Progressive Era, 1900-1916,” 540-571
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 18, 75-103, pay particular attention to Ryan (120), Sanger (122), and Wilson (124)
    • Optional: Various Authors, “Suffrage at 100,” New York Times
    • Optional Brockport Faculty Reading (and Listening):
      • Alison M. Parker, “Clubwomen, Reformers, Workers, and Feminists of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era,” in Women’s Rights in the Age of Suffrage: People and Perspectives, ed. Crista DeLuzio (New York: ABC-CLIO, 2009), 117-132
      • Elizabeth Garner Masarik, “100 Years of Woman Suffrage,” Dig! A History Podcast, 5 January 2020
  • Asynchronous Lecture—07 Did the Progressive Era Make Progress in Modern America, or Not?
  • Synchronous Discussion—1900-1916: The Progressive Era
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 18: The Progressive Era, 1900-1916

WEEK 06 Safe for Democracy? The Great War and Its Aftermath, 1916-1920

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 06
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 19: Safe for Democracy: The United States and World War I, 1916-1920, 572-605
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 19, 104-133, pay particular attention to Bourne (106, in relation to Douglass, “The Composite Nation)
  • Asynchronous Lecture—08 The Wartime State and Its Aftermath: Making the World Safe for Democracy?
  • Synchronous Discussion—Safe for Democracy: The United States and World War I, 1916-1920
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 19: Safe for Democracy: The United States and World War I, 1916-1920

WEEK 07 From Business Culture to Great Depression in the “Roaring” Twenties, 1920-1932

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 07
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 20, 1920-1932: From Business Culture to Great Depression in the “Roaring” Twenties, 606-636
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 20, 134-159, pay particular attention to Congress Debates Immigtation (138) and Hill and Kelley Debate the ERA (1922)
  • Asynchronous Lecture—09 What Made the “Roaring” Twenties Roaring?
  • Asynchronous Lecture—10 From Roaring Twenties to Great Depression
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 20: From Business Culture to Great Depression in the “Roaring” Twenties, 1920-1932

WEEK 08 The New Deal, 1932-1940

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 08
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 21: The New Deal, 1932-1940, 637-669
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 21, 160-186, pay particular attention to FDR (145), Hoover (146), Hill on Indian New Deal (148)
    • Optional: Louis Hyman, “The New Deal Wasn’t What You Think,” The Atlantic, 6 March 2019
    • Optional: Lawrence Glickman, “Donald Trump and the Anti-New Deal Tradition,” Process: A Blog for American History, 8 December 2016
    • Optional: Lawrence Glickman, “The left is pushing Democrats to embrace their greatest president. Why that’s a good thing,” Washington Post, 14 January 2019
    • Optional Brockport Faculty Reading:
      • Anne S. Macpherson, “Birth of the U.S. Colonial Minimum Wage: The Struggle over the Fair Labor Standards Act in Puerto Rico, 1938– 1941,” Journal of American History 104, 3 (December 2017), 656-680

WEEK 09 Fighting for the Four Freedoms: World War II, 1941-1945

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 09
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 22: Fighting for the Four Freedoms: World War II, 1941-1945, 670-704
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 22, 187-207, pay particular attention to FDR on the Four Freedoms (150), Luce, American Century (152), Wallace, Century of the Common Man (153), WWII and Mexican Americans (155), and Jackson, Dissent in Korematsu (157)
  • Asynchronous Lecture—12 Was World War II the Actual New Deal?
  • Synchronous Discussion—Fighting for the Four Freedoms: World War II, 1941-1945
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 22: Fighting for the Four Freedoms: World War II, 1941-1945
  • Assignment—Writing History and Historiography: Primary Source Meets Secondary Source 01

WEEK 10 The Cold War at Abroad and at Home, 1945-1960

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 10
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 23: The United States and the Cold War, 1945-1953, 705-733
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 24: Chapter 24: An Affluent Society, 1953-1960, 734-765
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 23, 208-239, pay particular attention to The Truman Doctrine (159) and Lippmann, A Critique of Containment (161)
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 24, 240-263, pay particular attention to Mills (171)
    • Optional Brockport Faculty Reading:
      • Bruce Leslie (and John Halsey), “A College Upon a Hill: Exceptionalism & American Higher Education,” in Marks of Distinction: American Exceptionalism Revisited, ed. Dale Carter (Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University Press, 2001), 197-228
  • Asynchronous Lecture—13 Cold War Containments
  • Asynchronous Lecture—14 Cold War Rebellions
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 23: The United States and the Cold War, 1945-1953
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 24: An Affluent Society, 1953-1960

WEEK 11 Abundance and Its Discontents, 1960-1969

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 11
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 25: The Sixties, 1960-1968, 766-802
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 25, 264-297, pay particular attention to Goldwater (1964), Port Huron Statement (178)
    • Optional: Keisha N. Blain, “Fannie Lou Hamer’s Dauntless Fight for Black Americans’ Right to Vote,” Smithsonian Magazine, 20 August 2020 (Links to an external site.)
    • Optional Brockport Faculty Reading:
      • Meredith Roman, “The Black Panther Party and the Struggle for Human Rights,” Spectrum: A Journal on Black Men 5, 1, The Black Panther Party (Fall 2016), 7-32
  • Asynchronous Lecture—15 A Second Reconstruction? The Modern African-American Civil Rights Movement
  • Asynchronous Lecture—16 The Great Society and the Quagmire of the Vietnam War
  • Synchronous Discussion—Abundance and Its Discontents, 1960-1969
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 25: The Sixties, 1960-1968

WEEK 12 Disco Demolitions and the Rise of the New Right, 1970-1989

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 12
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 26: The Conservative Turn, 1969-1988, 803-839
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 26, 298-322, pay particular attention to Commoner (184), Blakemore (185), Carter (186), Reagan (190)
    • Optional Brockport Faculty Reading:
      • Michael J. Kramer, “The Woodstock Transnational: Rock Music & Global Countercultural Citizenship After the Vietnam War,” Talk Delivered at Music and Nations III: Music in Postwar Transitions (19th-21st Centuries), Université de Montréal, 21 October 2018, based on material in the book The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • Asynchronous Lecture—17 Disco Demolition: The 1970s From Watergate to the Malaise Speech
  • Asynchronous Lecture—18 The Reagan Revolution: Modern Conservatism as Revolution—The Rise of the New Right
  • Synchronous Discussion—Disco Demolitions and the Rise of the New Right, 1970-1989
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 26: The Conservative Turn, 1969-1988
  • Assignment—Writing History and Historiography: Primary Source Meets Secondary Source 02

WEEK 13 Between Two Falls: The End of the Cold War to 9/11, 1989-2001

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 13
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 27: From Triumph to Tragedy, 1989-2004, 840-879
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 27, 323-340, pay particular attention to Clinton on NAFTA (192), Oro and Los Tigres del Norte (195)
    • Optional Brockport Faculty Reading:
      • James Spiller, “Nostalgia for the Right Stuff: Astronauts and Public Anxiety about a Changing Nation,” in Michael Neufeld ed., Spacefarers: Images of Astronauts and Cosmonauts in the Heroic Era of Spaceflight (Smithsonian Scholarly Press, 2013), 57-76
  • Asynchronous Lecture—19 The 1990s: An Era of Uncertainty
  • Asynchronous Lecture—20 The End of the American Century?: 9/11 to the 2008 Great Recession
  • Synchronous Discussion—Between Two Falls: The End of the Cold War to 9/11
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 27: From Triumph to Tragedy, 1989-2004

WEEK 14 Is America Modern Yet?, 2001-2020

  • This Week Overview
  • Required Reading—Week 14
    • Foner, Give Me Liberty!, Chapter 28: A Divided Nation, 2001-2020, 880-921
    • Foner, ed., Voices of Freedom, Chapter 28, 341-358, pay particular attention to Kennedy, Obergefell v. Hodges (199), Obama, Eulogy (201)
    • Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Case for Reparations,” The Atlantic, June 2014 (compare to Frederick Douglass, “Composite Nation” speech)
  • Asynchronous Lecture—21 From the Great Recession to Make America Great Again
  • Synchronous Discussion—Is America Modern?, 2001-2020
  • Assignment—InQuizitive for Foner, Chapter 28: A Divided Nation
  • Assignment—Writing History and Historiography: Primary Source Meets Secondary Source 03

WEEK 15 Final

  • Assignment—Final Essay
  • Extra Credit—Brockport Faculty Historians Essay

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