29 May 2017

The Twentieth Century

It's time for our last blog, and I want to take this opportunity to thank you guys for some great work this year. I've enjoyed learning together, please stay in touch after school ends.

This blog entry covers all of the fourth-quarter content, so from the 1920s to the 1980s. As per usual, the following links are only suggestions; you are highly encouraged to select a topic which corresponds to your theme.


Back-to-back laws in 1921 and 1924 greatly restricted immigration. Explorations of their effect has largely focused on the Holocaust. In 1939, the United States turned back 907 Jewish refugees aboard the St. Louis; some 254 died during the Holocaust. This episode is covered by our first link. The second link describes the adoption of our current immigration system in 1965.




It's during this period that the term exceptionalism was first applied to the United States, by Joseph Stalin. Our first link discusses this preliminary, critical, context. But Americans came to wear the label proudly, none more so than President Ronald Reagan. His exceptionalist vision is discussed in our second link.




In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt proposed four freedoms. While some (speech and religion) were familiar, others (from want and fear) were not. Our first link tells you the story. The second discusses Freedom Rides, which protested segregation in bus terminals. Finally, a third link introduces you to the Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley.





The Civil Rights Movement successfully established legal equality for African Americans, but did that translate economically? Our first link finds out. The next two article probe changes in America's racial makeup,





The Voting Rights Act of 1965 finally ensured democracy for southern African Americans. Our first link describes its passage, as well as subsequent revisions. In 1971, the voting age was reduced to 18. Our second article tells the story.



The American Dream

This term was coined in 1931 by writer James Truslow Adams. Our first link describes the background. By the 1950s, the American dream had become suburban. The second article explains how, using a famous example.



29 March 2017

The Turn of the Century

It's already time for our next blog, which is due Friday March 31st. This time, we're covering the last two units: the Gilded Age/Progressivism, and Imperialism/World War I. That means you should blog about how the content from 1877 to 1919 relates to your topic. Below are some suggested links, but don't feel compelled to use them. Indeed, you'll get two extra points for finding a link of your own!


This period witnessed backsliding from the important progress of Reconstruction. Southern states circumvented the 15th Amendment, while courts proclaimed segregation to be consistent with equal protection. The first link describes what this meant for daily life. If you're looking for a happier topic, the second link describes how W. E. B. DuBois founded the NAACP. Another possible topic would be the way race featured in American imperialism. A second article explores the Filipino context for Rudyard Kipling's famous poem, "The White Man's Burden".





This was the classic period of immigration, in which newcomers transited Ellis Island under the gaze of the Statue of Liberty. You can find an overview by clicking the first link. A second one discusses the origin (and accuracy) of the melting pot analogy, whereby American culture subsumed that of successive immigrant waves.




America's openness to immigrants has always been part of arguments for exceptionalism. The link below quotes observers from our period to make that point


The American Dream

What did Americans strive for? One possible answer lies in their reading. Author Horatio Alger became a publishing sensation with a series of books in which poor protagonists achieve success through a combination of talent and hard work. The first link explores his relevance to the American Dream. Another clue to American aspiration lies in advertising, which attempted to tap the hopes and dreams of the public. Our second article describes the growth of advertising, both the practice and the profession.




Progressives were passionate about democracy. One of their reforms was the 17th amendment, which allowed for the direct election of U. S. senators. The first link gives you a brief history. Another milestone was women's suffrage, which is discussed by the second article.




Early Republicans promoted "free labor", which they imagined in terms of ownership (of a farm or business). By the Gilded Age, this had evolved into "freedom of contract", the sale of labor to employers such as factories. This meant a decline in workers' independence, as described in our first link. Freedoms came into conflict again during World War I. Fighting a war for freedom of the seas and self-determination, we simultaneously suspended civil liberties at home. Americans went to jail for speaking against the war, as detailed in the second link.



16 January 2017

A Nation Divided

Apologies for the generic blog title, I felt that division is vague enough to cover both the Civil War and the period before it (the Antebellum period). Indeed, those are the two units we're blogging on this time. There's a lot of common ground between them, but students are only expected to pick one event which represents their theme. Below, I've suggested both topics and articles for them to use.


Let's start with this topic, as it shows up early in our time period. Andrew Jackson rehabilitated democracy, which was still something of a taboo under our first few presidents. But should he be compared with what came before, or after? As the first link observes, modern observers hesitate to apply the term to Jackson. The other classic commentary on democracy from this period was Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Our second article contextualizes the president's defense of "government of the people, by the people, and for the people".




Exceptionalism is closely aligned to the theme of democracy. The idea of American difference is often traced back to Alexis de Tocqueville, the French author of Democracy in America. Our first link gets at what Tocqueville meant, and whether it's complimentary. The second addresses President Lincoln, who famously called America "the last best hope of earth"




This topic is arguably central to the time period, containing as it does the first movement for racial equality. Our first article explores the abolitionist ideal, whereas the second considers the reality of Reconstruction.




This theme is also prominent for any blog covering the Civil War, which liberated millions of Americans from slavery. While we've focused on the Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment in class, our first article reminds us that freedom was not so much an event as a process. Our second link distinguishes between freedom and emancipation, in view of the challenges which accompanied the latter.




This is a topic I've short-changed in class. America's first full-fledged nativist movement is usually taught as part of the Republican party's origins. I thought better of teaching this complicated subject, knowing that I could suggest a blog on the topic of immigration. Our first article is about Know-Nothing Party, which opposed (Irish) immigration during the 1850s. The second is about birthright citizenship, which was a provision of the 14th Amendment.



The American Dream

The American Dream acquired a new element during this period, with the increased emphasis on education. Our first article describes the new women's colleges, as well as the rise of public education. This institution spread to the South during Reconstruction, a development treated in the second link.