Textbooks & Teaching Home
Journal of American History

2002 Syllabi
Teaching outside the Box

Editors' Introduction
Gary J. Kornblith & Carol Lasser

U.S. Women Activists
Catherine Badura
Syallbus: 1998, 2000 | Article

The Black Athlete
Amy Bass
Syllabus | Article

Recovering Detroit's Past for History & Theater
Charles Bright

American History Since 1865
A. Glenn Crothers
Syllabus | Article

Intro to American History
John J. Grabowski
Syllabus | Article

American History
Cecilia Aros Hunter & Leslie Gene Hunter
Syllabus | Article

In Search of America's Civil Rights Movement
Alyssa Picard & Joseph J. Gonzalez
Syllabus | Article

Out of Many: Histories of the U.S.
David A. Reichard
Syllabus | Article

Women & Social Movements
Kathryn Kish Sklar
Syllabus | Article

Law & Society in American History
John Wertheimer
Syllabus | Article

Colonial & Revolutionary History of the Southern Tidewater
James P. Whittenburg
Syllabus | Article

American National Character
Michael Zuckerman
Syllabus | Article

Introduction to American History

Spring 2001 MWF 10:30-11:20

John J. Grabowski
Case Western University

Philosophy/Purpose of the Course

The course is not a survey but rather an introduction to American history which will address the issue of division/unity in American history through a focus on topics such as region, locale, race, gender, and ethnicity. The course will familiarize students with historical debate in these particular areas and will also ask them to address the larger issue of what, if anything, provides "unity" for the nation.

Equally important, the course will have students examine these issues through extensive use of "source materials" ranging from the more traditional archives and newspapers to photographs and examples of material culture (costume, dining utensils, housing, etc.). The museum and library collections of the Western Reserve Historical Society will constitute the primary access point for such materials. However, students will also be required to undertake site visits (neighborhood walks and visits to historic and contemporary dwellings) to further explore the issues presented in the course. Links to pertinent websites will provide a third area for student examination.

Course Structure

The course will have two major "components." The first will be a general overview of American history from which particular events or themes will be examined in some detail. Although the course is not intended as a survey, this portion of the course will proceed in a chronological manner in which various events, issues, and themes from the American past will form the basis for addressing the issue of diversity/unity. At least one lecture each week will be devoted to the selected issue/theme. Students will prepare for the lecture and discussion through readings from one of two assigned "texts." To heighten debate within the class and to examine matters of historical approach and interpretation half of the class will read Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States, and the other half Paul Johnson's A History of the American People. Students will be assigned their text by "lottery" on the first day of class.

The second component of the course will focus on four "sub-themes " which will be used for a more detailed examination of diversity/unity in America. These are: food, clothing, shelter, and perception (how information has been provided to the American public). These sub-themes will be the topic of one of the weekly lectures and will constitute the main focus (one per group) of each of the class discussion sections. Examination of the subthemes will be supported by the ancillary required readings, power-point presentations in the weekly lecture, and exposure to various primary sources.

Discussion Sections and Examination of Sources

The weekly section meetings will be the arena in which the students fully confront the issue of unity and diversity by seeing how these concepts manifest themselves in the food people eat, the clothes they wear, the homes they live in, and the manner in which they learn about current events. The teaching assistants and I will assign students (either individually or by small group) within each section very specific tasks related to their section's theme--(i.e. examining the way the 1936 Olympics was reported in an African-American newspaper; looking at clothing worn by middle-class women in the 1930s; or visiting a residence in Little Italy). These tasks will require students to use materials at the Western Reserve Historical Society, explore relevant websites, and, to some degree, interact with the community. Their "research" will form the basis of analytical, illustrated essays (Discussion Group Assignments) which each student will be required to write. The teaching assistants and I will then grade the essays as well as cull them for images that will be added to the departmental website. At semesters' end or shortly thereafter, the history department web page will include four photographic essays relating to unity/diversity as expressed in clothing, food, housing, and the "news." Students whose images have been selected for the website will be credited on the site.

Course grades will be based on the essay completed for the discussion section, a short essay due at the end of the second week of class, as well as on a short mid-term examination and substantive essay style final examination.


Cunningham & Lab, (eds.) Dress in American Culture

Gabaccia, Donna R. We are What We Eat

Johnson, Paul. A History of the American People (FOR ONE HALF OF THE CLASS)

Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States (FOR ONE HALF OF THE CLASS)



First Short Essay -- 15% of grade

Midterm Examination -- 20% of grade

Discussion Group Assignments -- 25% of grade

Final Examination Essay -- 30% of grade

Class/Discussion Section Participation -- 10% of grade



Week 1 -- Introduction: Perception, Perspective, and the Politics of the American

Week 2 --Was Exploration Exploitation?
Johnson pp. 1-62, Zinn pp.1-22.

*** Short Essay on "My Perception of the American Past" Due

Week 3 --North/South, East/West, Thirteen Colonies to Fifty States (and a Commonwealth or Two)
Johnson pp. 73-109, 307-402 Zinn pp 39-75
Gabaccia, 1-35

Week 4 --Democracy and Oligarchy -- Illusions of Power or Illusions of Equality?
Johnson 121-210 Zinn 76 -101

Week 5 -- Slavery -- The Economics of Bondage and the Issue of Race
Cunningham & Lab, 66-79

Week 6 -- "Free" Labor -- Another Form of Bondage?
Johnson 399 -499 Zinn 23-38, 167-205

Week 7 -- "Huddled Masses" and the Challenge of Diversity
Johnson 511-516, 627-724 Zinn 206-289
Cunningham & Lab, 95-139
Gabaccia, 36-92

Week 8 --War and the National Memory

***Midterm Examination on Monday

Johnson 607-626, 768-839, 877-894 Zinn 290- 313, 350-367, 388-434, 460-492
Cunningham & Lab, 200-210

Week 9 -- Spring Break

Week 10 -- "How you gonna keep 'em down on the Farm" or, Rural Hick and City Slicker
Johnson 517-537, 569-597
Cunningham & Lab, 42-65, 80-94
Gabaccia, 93-148

Week 11 -- Black and White, The Issue of Race in America
Johnson 660-672*, 694-707*, 894-964 Zinn 435-459

Week 12 -- Gendered Pasts, Equal Futures?
Johnson 656-660, 965-976 Zinn 102-123, 493-528
Cunningham & Lab, 140-179

Week 13 -- First Parties and Third Parties, Political Divides in America.
Johnson 727-767, 845-876, 211-266 Zinn 527-588

Week 14 -- Are the First Americans the "Last" Americans?
Johnson 267-282 Zinn 124-166
Cunningham & Lab, 6-41

Week 15 -- Economics and the Classless Society
Johnson 598 -607, 703-726 Zinn 314-397, 589-628
Cunningham & Lab, 180-199
Gabaccia, 149-232

Week 16 -- Last Monday of Class -- Discussion Group Assignments Due

Promotional Flyer



Professor John J. Grabowski
Mather House 308
Spring Semester 2001
M W F 10:30-11:20

Are you willing to try something new? Are you ready to debate the politics of American history? Are you anxious to "get your hands on" the American past?

This spring, HSTY 112, one of the courses you have to take, has been restyled and refocused. By using a variety of texts along with meetings with museum curators and site visits students in HSTY 112 will examine the issues of unity and division in America and reflect on the ways historians have used sources and their own political inclinations to deal with those issues.

WARNING! This semester's version of HSTY 112 will be exciting, at times upsetting, and, perhaps, even confusing. You will have to work to get the most out of this course. If you do, you will discover a new concern for and interest in American history, museums, archives, and even the food you eat and the clothes you wear!


"Dueling text books" One half of the class will read a conservative
popular history of the US and the other, a radical version of
American history.

Spaghetti, bagels, tortillas, and sausage as ways of viewing the
American past.

Discovering the politics of gym suits.

Working with newspapers and other source materials at the
Western Reserve Historical Society.

Debating the "politics" of the past.