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Journal of American History

2001 Syllabi
Teaching the American History Survey

Gary J. Kornblith & Carol Lasser
Editors' Introduction | Article

US History to 1865/1877

Douglas Egerton
Le Moyne College

Karl Jacoby
Brown University

Gary Kornblith
Oberlin College

Lewis Perry
St. Louis University

Joshua Piker
University of Oklahoma

Doug Sackman
University of Puget Sound

William Scott
Kenyon College

Virginia Scharff
University of New Mexico

Maris A. Vinovskis
University of Michigan

US History since 1865/1877

Douglas Egerton
Le Moyne College

Doug Sackman
Oberlin College

Virginia Scharff
University of New Mexico

William Scott
Kenyon College

American History from 1877 to Present

Doug Sackman

History 104

General Info

Instructor: Doug Sackman
Times & Places: Lectures:
M & F: 9.00-9.50 am, King 337
Discussion Sections:
W: 9.00-9.50am, in King 337 or
W: 10.00-10.50am, in King 127
Office: Rice 311
Office Hours: M: 3:00-5.00 pm and
F: 2:00-4:00 pm and by appointment


This course is an introduction to American History from 1877 to the present. We will examine change over time in the United States' journey into and through modernity, looking to trace developments through four domains: society, culture, economics, and politics. Though each of these terms is rich in meaning and importance and therefore difficult to fix with a set definition, I will put forward these as a point of departure: society can be understood as the lived experience of individuals and groups in relation to each other and factors such as race, class, and gender; culture, as the ideas, beliefs, and values of a people; economics, as modes of production, patterns of growth, distribution of wealth, the character of work, and government fiscal policy; and politics, as the character and operations of power in society, including but not limited to the role of parties and the holders of governmental offices such as the presidency, and concerned with such vital issues as equality, opportunity, and liberty.

Approach and Format

This course involves both lectures and discussions. Instead of trying to present an everything-of-significance-that has-happened-in-American-history-since-1877 set of lectures, I will address particular themes and topics (e.g. the role of gender in the early twentieth century or media in the post-war world). More than being vessels of information, lectures are intended to provoke thought, discussion and reflection about American history. I invite you to ask questions and participate. The textbook, Out of Many, will complement the lectures, providing more detail and covering topics and events falling outside of the scope of the lectures.

In the discussion sections, we will have a chance to grapple with the complexity of the past--both as it happened and as we come to understand it. Though we may discuss issues related to the lectures or the textbook, discussions will mostly focus on the other readings. A variety of different kinds of readings have been selected: from first-person accounts of experiences of industrialization, the Depression or the civil rights movement, to novels giving expression to ideals and reflecting changing conditions, to recent works of history that try to grapple with a major issue. We will be looking for the ways that different kinds of sources open up different windows on the past, and at what those windows allow us to see of the messy process through which history has been made. Doing the reading in time for discussion sections on Wednesday is vital to the success of the course. In reading selections, you may find it useful to take notes and write down particular questions you might have or topics you would like to discuss.

The class will be divided into two discussion sections, the first of which meets at 9am on Wednesdays in King 337 while the second meets at 10 am on Wednesdays in King 229. After you have selected a discussion section, you are expected to consistently come to that section. Always bring the reading for that day to class with you, as we will often be discussing particular passages.


Multiple copies of the texts have been ordered to be put on reserve in the library. The following texts have been ordered for the Bookstore (located in the basement of South Hall).

1. John Mack Faragher, Mari Jo Buhle, Daniel Czitrom & Susan Armitage, Out of Many: A History of the American People, Brief Ed. Vol. II, 2/e + Out of Many Documents Set

2. Edward Bellamy, Looking Backward (1888) (Bedford)

3. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1901)

4. John Dower, War Without Mercy (Pantheon)

5. Barbara Ehrenreich, The Hearts of Men (Anchor)

6. James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time (1963) (Vintage Books)

7. George Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness (Temple)


1. Reading and Discussion Participation, including 4 short response assignments for the readings [1-2 pages; graded as , +, or -] [15%]

2. Document Assignment (3-5 pgs), due in discussion section Week 3: [15%]

3. A 5-Page Paper in response to paper topics distributed in class by Week 4, due in Week 7 on March 24 by 4pm: [30%]

4. Final Essay Exam, due on Monday May 15 by 4pm: [40%]

Late Policy: Assignments that are up to one-day late will be lowered 1/3 of a grade (e.g. a B becomes a B-); assignments turned in more than one-day late will be lowered 2/3 of a grade.

Course Schedule

[Readings are indicated by a "". Readings should be completed in time for the discussion section on Wednesdays. I have indicated the approximate number of pages of reading for discussion in brackets after each week's heading. Reading averages just under 100 pgs., though the amount in any particular week varies. In addition, usually one chapter from Out of Many is assigned for each week, though in some weeks there are two].

Week 1: America Full Blown: Excavating the Truth about American Expansion [18]

1.1 (Feb 7) Lenses on America: History, Historiography and Memory

1.2 (Feb 9) Winning the West?

Out of Many Documents: 234-250, 283-285 Out of Many, ch. 18

1.3 (Feb 11) Building Modern America & Constructing Race, Gender, and Class

Week 2: Society and the Rise of Corporate Capitalism, 1880-1910 [196]

2.1 (Feb 14) The Incorporation of America: the Rising Urban Order in the Gilded Age

2.2 (Feb 16) Manifest Destiny or Utopia?
Bellamy, Looking Backward (entire) Out of Many, ch. 19

2.3 (Feb 18) Populism and Empire

Week 3: Reform in the Transition to an Urban Nation, 1890s-1920 [15]

3.1 (Feb 21) Wages & Whiteness: Working Classes in the Age of Jim Crow
Monday Evening Film: Modern Times (1936) [Time and Place TBA]

3.2 (Feb 23) The Working Class in Urban America
Out of Many Documents, 251-266 Out of Many, ch. 20
<< Document Assignment Due>>

3.3 (Feb 25) "The One Best Way": Progressivism, Taylorism and Social Reform

Week 4: Race, Gender and War in Modern America, 1900-1924 [21]

4.1 (Feb 28) Gender and American Politics and Society

4.2 (March 1) Progressive Reform and War
Out of Many Documents, 289-297, 302-307; 309-316, 322-23 Out of Many, ch. 21 & 22

4.3 (March 3)The Great War, Race Riots & Immigration

Week 5: Mass Production and the Culture of the Masses, 1900-1929 [225]

5.1 (March 6) Inventing the Culture of Consumption

5.2 (March 8) Fantasies and Realities of Modern America
Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz + A Reading Handout
Out of Many, ch. 23

5.3 (March 10)The crash of '29

Week 6: Politics and Society in the 1930s [18]

6.1 (March 13)New Deal Politics and Reform
Monday Evening Film: The Grapes of Wrath (1940) [Time and Place TBA]

6.2 (March 15) Hard Times
Out of Many Documents, 341-359 Out of Many, ch. 24

6.3 (March 17) No Class

Week 7: World War II [200]

7.1 (March 20) World War Two

7.2 (March 22) Race and Warfare
Dower, War Without Mercy Out of Many Documents, 362-63; 376-378 Out of Many, ch. 25

7.3 (March 24) The War at Home (Rosie the Riveter)
<<5-page Paper Due by 5pm>>

Spring Break

Week 8: Cold War Politics and Culture I, 1945-1955 [11]

8.1 (April 3) America's Century and the Coming of the Cold War

8.2 (April 5)
Out of Many Documents, 379-397; 399-402 Out of Many, ch. 26

8.3 (April 7) Cold War Politics at Home and Abroad

Week 9: Cold War Politics and Culture II [87]

9.1 (April 10) Cold War Culture and its Discontents

9.2 (April 12) Gender and Society in the 50s
Ehrenreich, Hearts of Men, 1-87 Out of Many, ch. 27

9.3 (April 14) The "Global Village"?: Media and Society in the Postwar World

Week 10: Civil Rights [113]

10.1 (April 17) Dismantling Jim Crow: The Movements for Civil Rights

10.2 (April 19) Perspectives on Civil Rights
Baldwin, The Fire Next Time Out of Many Documents, 414-437 (recommended) Out of Many, ch. 28

10.3 (April 21) Expansion of Civil Rights Movements

Week 11: Vietnam, the 60s and the End of Manifest Destiny [81]

11.1 (April 24) Vietnam and the Social Movements of the 1960s (Berkeley in the 60s)

11.2 (April 26)
Out of Many Documents, 438-462 Ehrenreich, Hearts of Men, 88-143 Out of Many, ch. 29

11.3 (April 28) A World of Limits and Quality of Life: Nature and the Nation from the 1960s-1990s

Week 12: The Reagan Era and Multiculturalism [150]

12.1 (May 1) From Reagan to the Riots of 1992
Monday Evening Film: Bladerunner [Time and Place TBA]

12.2 (May 3)
Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness (pgs. TBA) Ehrenreich, Hearts of Men, 144-182
Out of Many, ch. 30

12.3 (May 5) Wars of History and Culture I

Week 13: History, Memory and the Future of Race in America [80]

13.1 (May 8) Wars of History and Culture II

13.2 (May 10)
Lipsitz, The Possessive Investment in Whiteness (pgs. TBA) Out of Many, ch. 31
Out of Many Documents, 501-504

13.3 (May 12) Millennial America

Final Essay Exams Due by 4pm on Monday May 15; No Papers can be accepted after 5pm on Tuesday May 16