History 2112-25H

United States History from 1865 to the Present

Fall 2008


Instructor: Dr. Dan Williams                                                              Class Location:

Office Hours: TLC 3225                                                                    TLC 3205

            T, Th, 11:00-12:30                                                                  T, Th, 9:30-10:45

            W, 10-12, 1-4

            (and by appointment)

Email: dkw@westga.edu

Phone: 678-839-6046

Course website: www.westga.edu/~dkwillia





This course will provide an overview of the social, cultural, and political history of the United States from 1865 to the beginning of the twenty-first century, and will equip students to better understand the problems and challenges of the contemporary world in relation to events and trends in modern American history.


This course does not require you to have a prior background in American history or historical writing, but you should come to the class with the willingness to learn techniques of writing and historical analysis that will help you in other college courses and in your future career.  In this class, you will gain practice evaluating opposing arguments and different points of view, and will have the chance to learn how to express your opinions in a cogent and persuasive manner. 


This is an honors course, so it will require a heavier reading load and more writing assignments than a regular History 2112 survey course.  You will also have the opportunity to discuss ideas in much greater depth than you would in a typical survey class, and you will have the chance to engage in more extensive historical research.


For more information on the learning outcomes that all HIST 2112 courses share, you may consult the history department’s web site (www.westga.edu/~history).





Classes in this seminar course will consist of interactive lectures and discussions of the readings, so you should complete the assigned reading before each class session.  The exams will cover material presented in the lectures and readings. 




Students’ final grades will be determined as follows:

      Midterm exam                                           15%

      Research paper                                          25%    

      Interview-based essay                               15%

      Class participation                                     15%

      Email assignments                         10%

      Final exam                                                 20%


There will be no opportunity for extra-credit assignments in this course.


Grading Methodology: This university does not use a plus / minus grading system, but during the course of the semester, I will use plus / minus grades, as well as split-letter grades (e.g., an A- / B+), in order to evaluate students’ written work with precision.  In computing final course grades, I convert all grades into numeric scores according to the following system:

A = 95

A/A- = 94

A- = 92

A-/B+ = 90

B+ = 88

B+/B = 87

B = 85

B/B- = 84

B- = 82

B-/C+ = 80

(A similar pattern is used for grades in the C-range and D-range).


In computing final course grades, a grade average of 89.5 or higher converts to a course grade of A, a grade average between 79.5 and 89.49 converts to a course grade of B, and a grade average between 69.5 and 79.49 converts to a course grade of C.  A grade average of 59.5, which converts to a D, is the lowest possible passing grade in the course.


A-range grades, including the grade of A-/B+, are reserved for work that is of exceptional quality.  In order to receive an A-range grade on an essay assignment, a student’s essay must show evidence of original thinking and the ability to synthesize information from a wide variety of sources, as well as an accurate understanding of the material and good writing technique.  Papers that receive a grade of 90 or above must be cogent and persuasive in their argumentation, and they must be well written and tightly organized around a strong thesis.  In short, a paper that receives an A-range grade not only meets the basic requirements for the assignment, but also demonstrates that a student has mastered the interpretative, analytical, and writing skills expected for a course at this level.


B-range grades are given to essays that demonstrate a student’s accurate understanding of the material, adequate use of the assigned documents, and competence in writing.  They rarely contain the sophisticated analysis required for an A-range essay, but they meet the requirements and expectations for the assignment.


C-range grades are given to essays that contain factual inaccuracies, errors in interpretation, inadequate use of the assigned documents, or poor writing technique, even though they usually meet most of the basic requirements for the assignment.


D-range and failing grades are assigned to work that fails to meet the requirements and expectations for the assignment.


Exams: There will be a midterm and a final exam.  Exams will consist of essay questions and I.D. terms.  The exams will emphasize broad themes of the course and will test your ability to analyze concepts presented in the readings and the lectures.  One week before each exam, you will receive a study guide that will give you more information about the material covered on the tests.  I will give make-up exams only in cases of a pre-arranged, excused absence for which documentation must be provided, or in cases of a legitimate health or family emergency that must be documented with a doctor’s note, dean’s note, or similar measure of proof.  In all other cases, make-up exams will not be an option.


Essays: You will need to write two essays for this course: a research paper and an interview-based essay.  Papers must include footnotes.


The research paper should be 6-8 pages in length, and should be based on one of the topics listed in the guidelines for this assignment.  Please see those guidelines for more information on the specifications for this paper.  The first draft of the research paper is due on October 23.  I will return your paper to you with comments (but without a grade) on October 30, and you will then have two weeks to revise it and turn in the final version on November 13.


You will also need to write a short essay (3-4 pages) based on an interview with an older relative or family friend.  This essay will give you a chance to examine your own family’s history in the context of broader trends in American society.  Consult the essay guidelines for suggested interview questions and additional tips for writing this paper. 


Papers that are turned in after the assigned date will be marked down 1/3 of a letter grade for each day they are overdue. 


It should go without saying that all papers and exam essays that you write must be your own work, and that any students who are caught plagiarizing another student’s work, a paper from a web site, a textbook, or any other source will automatically fail this course and may be subject to further disciplinary action.  Plagiarism is a serious offense that will not be tolerated.


All of your written work for this class must be original; you are not allowed to submit essays that you have written for other courses or that you have completed prior to this semester.


Class Participation: In a small, seminar-style course, class participation is very important, and will constitute 15% of your class grade.  I hope that all students will feel comfortable contributing to the discussion in every class period.  You should complete all assigned readings before class so that you will be prepared for class discussions.  Repeated absences, habitual silence, or evidence of failure to do the reading will adversely affect your participation grade.  All class discussions are important, but it is especially imperative that you participate in the book discussions on August 26, September 25, and December 2, because those are the primary opportunities in this seminar to analyze book-length historical works through class discussion. 


Email assignments: You should email me a brief summary (suggested length: approximately three paragraphs) of each of the three books (Scott Reynolds Nelson’s Steel Drivin’ Man, Joshua Zeitz’s Flapper, and Bruce Schulman’s The Seventies) that you will read this semester.  Each of those emails is due on 11pm of the night before the scheduled discussion of the book in question.  For example, the email summarizing Steel Drivin’ Man is due by 11pm on Monday, August 25, because the discussion of that book is scheduled for August 26.  Your email should summarize the main arguments of the book, evaluate the author’s approach or argument, and suggest an intriguing question for class discussion.


Class communication: I may send out periodic email communiqués to students in this course, so please check your UWG email account regularly.  The university administration has stipulated that all email communication between faculty and students should take place on UWG email accounts, so please use your UWG email account for all electronic communications that you send me. 


University policy also prevents me from disclosing grades over email, so if you would like to discuss your grade on any assignment in the class, please set up an appointment to meet with me in my office.  Please do not email me with a request for your grades, since I am not allowed to email that information to you. 


To protect students’ privacy rights, I will not return graded papers or exams to any third party (e.g., a student’s friend or relative who asks to pick up a student’s work on that person’s behalf) unless a student gives me permission in writing (e.g., an email) to do so.  There are occasions when I must disclose a student’s grade to university administrators, other history department faculty (e.g., the department chair), or athletic coaches who need to know the academic status of students on their team, but in all other cases, I will make every effort to maintain the confidentiality of students’ grades.


I would like to do whatever I can to help you succeed in this course.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have a question about any subject pertaining to this class.  I make it a priority to respond promptly to emails from students, and I am happy to talk with students during my office hours, so please feel free to stop by my office to introduce yourself and discuss any concerns that you may have about this course.  I believe that this will be an excellent semester, and I am pleased to welcome you to this class.




Required readings:


The following texts are available in the college bookstore, and are required:


John M. Murrin et al., Liberty, Equality, Power: A History of the American People, vol.

      2: Since 1863, concise 4th ed. with pass code for online resources (Belmont, CA: Thomson-

      Wadsworth, 2007). 


David E. Shi and Holly A. Mayer, For the Record: A Documentary History of America,

      3rd ed., vol. 2 (New York: W.W. Norton, 2007).


Scott Reynolds Nelson, Steel Drivin’ Man: John Henry: The Untold Story of an American

      Legend (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006)


Joshua Zeitz, Flapper: A Madcap Story of Sex, Style, Celebrity, and the Women Who Made

      America Modern (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007)


Bruce Schulman, The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics

      (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2001)


Supplementary course packet.



Documents on the course website (www.westga.edu/~dkwillia) that you should read:


1.      Syllabus

2.      List of Important Terms from Lectures

3.      Instructions for Accessing the Online American History Resource Center

4.      Guidelines for the Primary-Source-Based Essay Assignment

5.      Guidelines for the Interview-Based Essay Assignment

6.      Tips for Writing an Effective Paper

7.      Instructions for Using Footnotes

8.      Guidelines for Avoiding Inadvertent Plagiarism




Course Schedule:


Please complete assigned readings before class.


8/19     Reconstructing the South                  


8/21     The “New South” After Reconstruction

            Murrin, 440-463, 473-476, 522-524.

            Shi and Mayer, 3-26, 29-32.


8/26     African Americans in the New South

            Nelson, Steel Drivin’ Man, 1-117.

            Shi and Mayer, 32-40, 45-47, 98-101, 141-146.

            Discussion of Steel-Drivin’ Man (email summary due at 11pm on 8/25)


8/28     The War against Native Americans

            Murrin, 464-473.

            Shi and Mayer, 47-53.


9/2       The Wild West: Homesteaders, Miners, and Ranchers on America’s Frontier

            Shi and Mayer, 40-45.

Hettie Lee Anderson, “A Homesteading Adventure in the Eighties”



9/4       Gilded Age Capitalism

            Murrin, 490-514, 524-526.

            Shi and Mayer, 58-70.


9/9       Economic and Cultural Transformations in the Gilded Age

            Murrin, 482-490, 514-522.

            Shi and Mayer, 75-84, 87-89, 93-97.

            American History Resource Center Document: Mark Twain, Roughing It: The

                  Gentle, Inoffensive Chinese.

            Course packet: Immigration.


9/11     Jane Addams and the Progressive Impulse               

            Murrin, 527-531, 533-549.

            Shi and Mayer, 92-93, 131-134, 157-166.

            Course packet: Letters from 19th-Century College Students.


9/16     The Progressives in Washington: From TR to Wilson           

            Murrin, 549-560.

            Shi and Mayer, 135-141, 147-156.

Richmond P. Hozman’s Argument for Prohibition (1914)


Jane Addams, “The Modern City and the Municipal Franchise for Women” (1906)


Arthur Brisbane, “Why Women Should Vote” (1917) [http://womenshistory.about.com/od/suffrage/a/why_women_vote.htm]


9/18     The Spanish-American War and American Imperialism

            Murrin, 561-584.

            Shi and Mayer, 118-124, 128-129.

Mark Twain on Imperialism [http://www.peacehost.net/WhiteStar/Voices/twain.html]


9/23     The First World War and its Aftermath

            Murrin, 585-609.

            American History Resource Center Documents: A Sample of a War Propaganda

                  Pamphlet; The Espionage Act.

            Shi and Mayer, 169-187, 190-192, 195-201.


9/25     Women in the 1920s

            Murrin, 610-618.

            Shi and Mayer, 192-195.

            Course packet: The 1920s (sections on flappers and women).

            Zeitz, Flapper

            Discussion of Flapper (email summary due at 11pm on 9/24)


9/30     Cultural Conflict in the 1920s

            Murrin, 618-629.

            Shi and Mayer, 203-207, 211-212, 215-217.

            American History Resource Center Documents: Babe Ruth’s Children’s Story,

                  The Home-Run King; A Contemporary Scholarly Review of the Impact of

                  Movies on Their Viewers

            Course packet: The 1920s


10/2     The First Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance

            Murrin, 629-637.

            Shi and Mayer, 201-202.

            Course packet: The Harlem Renaissance.


10/7     Midterm Exam


10/9     No class (fall break)


10/14   The Great Depression and the First New Deal

            Murrin, 638-655.

            Shi and Mayer, 231-235, 238-242.

            American History Resource Center Document: Roosevelt’s First Fireside Chat.

            Shi and Mayer, 238-242.

            Course packet: Letters to Eleanor Roosevelt.


10/16   The New Deal and the Political Challenges of the 1930s

            Murrin, 655-679.

            Shi and Mayer, 247-258, 265-274.

            Course packet: Letters to Eleanor Roosevelt.


10/21   World War II: Changes on the Home Front

            Murrin, 687-695.

            American History Resource Center Documents: Monica Sone’s Nisei Daughter;

                  Jeanne Wataksuki Houston and James D. Houston, Farewell to Manzanar;

                  Franklin Roosevelt, “A Call to Sacrifice.”

            Shi and Mayer, 280-289.

            Course packet: World War II.


10/23   World War II: Changes for the Nation and the World

Murrin, 679-686, 695-698.

            Shi and Mayer, 277-280, 289-294.

            Course packet: The Atomic Bomb.

            First draft of research paper due.


10/28   The Cold War and the Politics of Fear

            Murrin, 699-718, 723-732.

            Shi and Mayer, 298-305, 308-315, 339-341, 342-343.


10/30   American Families in the 1950s

            Murrin, 718-723, 732-739.

            Shi and Mayer, 318-323, 326-336.


11/4     The Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s

            Murrin, 739-745.

            Shi and Mayer, 306-307, 343-349.


11/6     The Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s

            Murrin, 750-754.

            Shi and Mayer, 359-366, 370-372, 404-411.


11/11   Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society

Murrin, 755-760.

            Shi and Mayer, 355-359.

Johnson, “War on Poverty”



11/13   The Vietnam War

            Murrin, 745-750, 760-764.

            American History Resource Center Documents: The Tonkin Gulf Incident and

                  President Johnson’s Message to Congress (1964); Viet Cong Program; John

                  Kerry, “Vietnam Veterans Against the War Statement” (1971).

            Shi and Mayer, 341-342, 385-403.

            Research paper due.


11/18   Youth Rebellion in the 1960s

Murrin, 765-771, 800-807.

            Shi and Mayer, 414-418, 422-430.

American History Resource Center Documents: A Yippie Leaflet Distributed in

      Lincoln Park, Chicago (1968)


11/20   From Black Power to Bakke

Shi and Mayer, 372-379, 455-459.

American History Resource Center Documents: Stokely Carmichael and Charles

      V. Hamilton’s Black Power: The Politics of Liberation in America; A

      Teacher’s Diary of the Desegregation of South Boston High School.

            Black Panther Party Program [http://www.hippy.com/php/article-202.html]


11/25   The Feminist Movement

            Murrin, 771-775, 798-800.

            Shi and Mayer, 324-326, 380-382, 419-421, 459-460.

            American History Resource Center Documents: National Organization for

                  Women (NOW) Statement of Purpose (1966); Roe v. Wade (1973).

Feminism: [http://www.wiwomensnetwork.org/1977declaration.html]

            Course packet: Feminism.


11/27   No class (Thanksgiving)


12/2     The Crises of the Seventies and the Rise of a New Conservatism

Murrin, 775-782, 807-819.

Shi and Mayer, 367-370, 433-435.

American History Resource Center Documents: A Denunciation of Antiwar

      Protestors by Vice President Spiro Agnew; Spiro T. Agnew’s 1969 Speech, “Racism, the New Left, and the New South.”

Schulman, The Seventies.

Discussion of The Seventies (email summary due at 11pm on 12/1)


12/4     From Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush: Conservatives and the Challenges of a Changing World

            Murrin, 819-843.

            Shi and Mayer, 436-441, 443-448, 453-455, 461-474.

            American History Resource Center Documents: Speech on the Challenger Disaster; An

      Account of the Lives of Undocumented Immigrants in Texas (1994); An Argument in

Favor of Immigration Restriction; A Report on the Advantages of Immigration (1997).

            Interview-based essay due.


12/11   Final exam (8-10am)