The United States, 1877-1945:

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Sarah McNair Vosmeier

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Course Description
This course is a survey of American history between the end of Reconstruction and the end of World War II.  We will analyze primary and secondary sources, and we will draw on them to make historical arguments.  A focus of our discussions will be asking which, if any, of the following best characterized this period:
  - an expansion in equality and individualism?
  - the end of American provincialism and the transformation of the United States into an ethnically diverse world power?
  -  new "modern" attitudes about work, family, and politics?
  -  new technology driving social and cultural changes?

    Calculating Final Grades
                Midterm exam              20%
                Final exam              25%
                Primary source analyses (2)    20%
                Final paper              20%
                Preparation & participation    15%

Nota Bene
Our class time provides an opportunity, rare in modern life, to focus for an extended time on a single task and conversation.  Please do not multitask -- to avoid distraction for others and temptation for ourselves, we will not use laptops, cell phones, etc. during regular class time.  (Laptops will be useful during scheduled workshops, however.) 

You will need to bring assigned texts to class in paper form.

Late papers/projects will be penalized, and in-class assignments cannot be made up.  Students with emergencies who wish to request an exception to this rule should contact me before the due date. About items needed for this class:

Available at the Bookstore
Michael McGerr, A Fierce Discontent (2003)
David M. Kennedy, Over Here (1980)
Lizabeth Cohen, Making a New Deal (1990)
James T. Sparrow, Warfare State (2011)
Diana Hacker, Rules for Writers

Other assignments are available online or on reserve at the library.

Our discussions will be based on close readings of texts, and you will need notes on the texts in the form of marginalia.  Thus, you should  budget appropriately for printing online documents in addition to the books you purchase. 

About Preparation, Participation, Papers, and Exams:

Preparation and Participation:
    We will all find our work more rewarding and enjoy our time together more if everyone prepares and participates fully.  People who excel in participation make useful comments in class or ask helpful questions, and they facilitate others' participation as well; they also complete brief assignments included in this portion of the grade adequately and on time. 
    Some brief assignments, such as marginalia checks or study guide contributions, allow you to demonstrate careful preparation for class. Others, such as transcribing a manuscript and contributing to the Holocaust Museum's "History Unfolded" project, allow you to serve the public good while furthering your own education.
    Also included in this portion of the grade is the informal "Adopt a Student" project, for which you will do research on a Hanover student who lived between 1877 and 1945.

    Students will work on two primary source collections World War I letters in the Duggan Library and newspaper accounts of the planned 1941 March on Washington.
The Primary Source Analyses (2-3 pages) will put those primary sources in historical context.
    The final paper (6-9 pages) will make a historical argument supported by primary and secondary sources.

    Two blue book exams will include identifications and essay questions.



September 5, 2017 (Tues.)    Lecture:  "Defining Terms." 
                Workshop: "Adopt a Student" project.

The Gilded Age 
September 7, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion: Vosmeier, "On Marginalia," 2016 (online); Jackson and Woolsey, descriptions of railroad travel, 1872-1878  (excerpts online); "Labor Troubles in the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania 1887-1888" (excerpts online); Kirkman, Science of Railways, 1896 (excerpts online); "Jim Crow Laws Passed in the 1880s and 1890s," (online). Lecture: "The Gilded Age."

Friday (Sept. 8), 3:00-6:30, Classic 102: showing of Birth of a Nation

September 12, 2017 (Tues.)    Discussion: Fourteenth Amendment, 1868 (online); Fifteenth Amendment, 1870 (online); Hamer sharecropping contract, 1875 (online); Carter testimony on the KKK, 1872 (excerpts online); Birth of a Nation, 1915 (on reserve); Jane Addams on Birth of a Nation, 1915 (online).

September 14, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion:  Frederick Jackson Turner, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" (excerpts online); Oblinger letters, 1873 (excerpts online); Zitkala-sa, American Indian Stories, 1921 (excerpts online).

The Progressive Era
September 19, 2017 (Tues.)    Discussion:  McGerr, A Fierce Discontent (2003), xiii-xvi; Riis, How the Other Half Lives, 1890 (excerpts online); Riordon, Plunkitt of Tammany Hall, 1905 (excerpts online);  Sixteenth Amendment, 1913 (online); Seventeenth Amendment, 1913 (online).     Lecture: "Progressivism and Historiography."

September 21, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion:  McGerr, 40-74; Addams, "Subjective Necessity for Social Settlements," 1892 (excerpts online); Pullman strikers' statement, 1894 (excerpts online); Hacker on plagiarism.
                Workshop: Use of Sources.

September 26, 2017 (Tues.)    Discussion:  McGerr, 77-117;  Willard, Do Everything, 1895 (excerpts online);  Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous Life," 1899 (excerpts online); Bryan, imperialism speech, 1900 (excerpts online); "Style Guide for Chicago Manual Footnotes" (online). Workshop: Use of sources, continued.

September 28, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion:  McGerr, 118-55, 160-64, 174-81; Mother Jones, 1902 speech (excerpts online); Sinclair, The Jungle, 1906 (excerpts online); Wiley, letter to Millis, 1916 (excerpts online).

October 3, 2017 (Tues.)    Discussion:  McGerr, 182-218. Wells-Barnett, The Red Record, 1895 (excerpts online); Spooner and Tillman, Senate speeches on lynching, 1907 (excerpts online).
October 5, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion: McGerr, 221-35, 245-78, 315-19; Nineteenth Amendment, 1920 (online); Equal Rights Amendments, 1923-1972 (online); Hanover news, 1903 (online). 
                Review of thematic questions. 

October 10, 2017 (Tues.)    Midterm exam. 
                Workshop: Transcribing World War I letters. (Meet in the archives reading room at 10:55.)

World War I
October 12, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion: Kennedy, Over Here (1980), vii-ix.
                Lecture: "World War I." 

October 17, 2017 (Tues.)    Discussion: Kennedy, 45-93, 144-63, 185-90.
October 19, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion:  Kennedy, 93-144.  Additional assignment t.b.a.
    Primary source analysis due Friday, October 20.

FALL BREAK, Oct. 21-24

October 26, 2017 (Thurs.)    Meet in Duggan Library computer lab.
                Workshop:  Bibliographic Instruction. 

October 31, 2017 (Tues.)*    Discussion: Gershenhorn, "Double V in North Carolina," 2006 (online -- click "PDF full text" on the left to print out).  Schultz, "The FEPC and the Legacy of the Labor-Based Civil Rights Movement," 2008 (online -- click "PDF full text" on the left to print out).

    *Note that the history conference, "The Lutheran Reformation: 500 Years Later," will be on campus on Oct. 31, schedule t.b.a.

The 1920s
November 2, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion: Cohen, Making a New Deal (1990), 1-9; Eighteenth Amendment, 1919 (online); Wickersham Commission Report, 1930 (excerpts online); Twenty-First Amendment, 1933 (online); Klansman Manual, 1925 (excerpts online); Imperial Night-Hawk, 1923 (excerpts online).   Lecture: "The 1920s."
    Primary source analysis due Friday, Nov. 3.


November 7, 2017 (Tues.)    Discussion: Cohen, 53-64, 99-158; Smith, "Shut the Door" speech, 1924 (excerpts online); Clancy, speech against the Immigration Act of 1924 (excerpts online).

The Great Depression
November 9, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion: Hoover, Radio Address on Lincoln's Birthday, 1931 (excerpts online); Ford, "Self-Help," 1932 (excerpts online); Franklin D. Roosevelt, First Inaugural Address, 1933 (online); Twentieth Amendment, 1933 (online). Lecture: "The Great Depression."

November 14, 2017 (Tues.)    Discussion: Cohen, 213-49.
November 16, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion: Cohen, 251-89.
    Friday (Nov. 17), 3:00-5:00, Classic 102: showing of Casablanca

World War II  
November 21, 2017 (Tues.)    Discussion: Casablanca, 1943 (on reserve). 
                Lecture: World War II.


November 28, 2017 (Tues.)    Discussion:  Sparrow, Warfare State (2011), 41-65, 71-74, 78-112; "George Takei on Internment, Allegiance and 'Gaman,'" 2017 (online -- click on the print icon near the top of the interview text to create a clean reading text    ).

November 30, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion:  Sparrow, 113-22, 133-56, 160-84.
    Final paper due Friday, December 1.

December 5, 2017 (Tues.)    Discussion:  Sparrow, 201-37, 240-41, 252-60.
December 7, 2017 (Thurs.)    Discussion: Goldberg, "The Enola Gay Affair," 1999 (
online -- click "download pdf" to the right and then print).
                Review of thematic questions.