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UNIT 1. Reconstruction and the Gilded Age
1. The American Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction on the World Stage, Edward L. Ayers, OAH Magazine of History, January 2006
The Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction were seminal events in American history. The author argues that the war and its aftermath “has carried a different meaning for every generation of Americans” and “embodied struggles that would confront people on every continent.”
2. 1871 War on Terror, David Everitt, American History, June 2003
During the post-Civil War period a terrorist organization that became known as the Ku Klux Klan arose in the South. Dedicated to keeping blacks in a subservient position, the organization committed atrocities against them and their white supporters. Everitt evaluates efforts to destroy the Klan.
3. Little Bighorn Reborn, Tony Perrottet, Smithsonian, April 2005
In 1991, after many years of Indian complaints, what had been called the Custer Battlefield became the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. That name change symbolizes the movement towards reconciliation between Indians and whites in commemorating the event.
4. Gifts of the “Robber Barons”, James Nuechterlein, Commentary, March 2007
Corporations grew to unprecedented size during the post-Civil War period. Those who headed these organizations often were referred to as “Robber Barons” for their shady business practices and exploitation of labor. The author examines the lives of two of these individuals, Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon. He concludes that they were “neither heroes nor villains in the roles they played.”
5. The Spark of Genius, Harold Evans, U.S. News & World Report, October 11, 2004
Thomas Alva Edison took out 1,093 patents during his lifetime. His invention of the incandescent light bulb during the late 1870s changed the lives of millions. Evans argues that Edison’s real genius lay in his ability to develop his inventions from the experimental lab to commercial success.
6. Global Cooling, Mark Bernstein, American History, August 2006
During the 19th Century ice from the lakes and rivers of the American North was shipped around the world. This commodity became even more valuable during the period after the Civil War when the advent of refrigerated warehouses and railroad cars revolutionized the distribution of meats and produce.
7. Lockwood in ’84, Jill Norgren, Wilson Quarterly, August 2002
In 1884, lawyer Belva Lockwood ran for the presidency on the Equal Rights Party ticket. Although women’s suffrage was her priority, she took progressive stands on most of the day’s leading issues. She was the first and last woman (so far) to stay in a presidential race right up to Election Day.
8. A Day to Remember: December 29, 1890, Charles Phillips, American History, December 2005
On this date the 7th Cavalry attacked a group of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota, killing about 300 people most of whom were women and children. Author Phillips analyzes the events leading to this massacre, including the rise of what became known as the Ghost Dancers.UNIT 2. The Emergence of Modern America
9. Where the Other Half Lived, Verlyn Klinkenborg, Mother Jones, July/August 2001
The Mulberry Bend section was one of the most notorious slums in New York City. Danish-born reformer Jacob Riis photographed and wrote about the squalor and unbelievably crowded conditions in which the mostly immigrant population of the Bend had to live.
10. The Murder of Lucy Pollard, Caleb Crain, New York Times Book Review, July 15, 2004
The 1890s have been described as the “nadir” of African-American history. The disenfranchisement of blacks in the South was near total and lynchings were at an all time high. In 1895 three black women and a black male were charged with murdering a white woman on the flimsiest evidence. This article analyzes the case and the contribution to it of a crusading black newspaper editor.
11. Joe Hill: ‘I Never Died,’ Said He, Ben Lefebvre, American History, December 2005
The author describes the life and times of Joe Hillstrom, better known as “Joe Hill,” a legendary labor organizer and agitator. After his execution for a murder he may not have committed, Hill became a martyr to many in the labor movement.
12. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Steven Lee Carson, American History, August 2005
Alice Roosevelt Longworth was a “liberated” woman long before the term became fashionable. She was independent, outspoken, and given to pranks that outraged polite society. She delighted in embarrassing her father, President Theodore Roosevelt. When a friend complained about Alice’s conduct, he replied: “Look Owen, I can control Alice or run the country. I can’t do both.” She remained controversial throughout her long life.
13. A Day to Remember: March 25, 1911, Charles Phillips, American History, April 2006
Beginning in late 1909, employees of the Triangle Waist Companyjoined in a strike led by the Women’s Trade Union League calling for better pay, shorter hours, and improvement of horrible working conditions. The strike ended with few gains. The 1911 fire, which claimed 146 women, brought to public attention the squalid and dangerous circumstances found at Triangle and other sweatshops. Blocked exits and faulty fire hoses resulted in many needless deaths.UNIT 3. From Progressivism to the 1920s
14. The Fate of Leo Frank, Leonard Dinnerstein, American Heritage, October 1996
In 1913, Leo Frank, convicted for the murder of a young girl in Marietta, Georgia, was removed from jail and lynched by an angry mob. Frank was innocent, but the “injustices caused by industrialism, urban growth in Atlanta, and fervent anti-Semitism conspired to wreck one man.”
15. The Ambiguous Legacies of Women’s Progressivism, Robyn Muncy, OAH Magazine of History, Spring 1999
Hundreds of thousands of women threw themselves into Progressive reform, the legacies of which are with us today. Most students assume that such activism and power must have tended unambiguously to liberate women. Robyn Muncy points out that the truth is not that simple, and that female Progressive activism left a complicated legacy.
16. The Enemy Within, Christine M. Kreiser, American History, December 2006
Between September 1918 and June 1919, in the midst of World War I, an estimated 675,000 Americans died from influenza or the “Spanish flu, as it was then called. Author Kreiser examines this catastrophe, and the mostly futile efforts to combat it. Many public officials tried to downplay the seriousness of this calamity by subordinating it to the war effort.
17. A Day to Remember: January 16, 1920, Charles Phillips, American History, February 2005
On the eve of Prohibition saloons and liquor stores held cut-rate sales, and some nightclubs held mock funerals for the death of John Barleycorn. Phillips traces the history of temperance movements that finally resulted in the “noble experiment,” an effort to ban the consumption of alcoholic beverages.
18. Evolution on Trial, Steve Kemper, Smithsonian, April 2005
The Scopes Trial of 1925 pitted William Jennings Bryan against Clarence Darrow in a highly publicized clash over the teaching of evolution in Dayton, Tennessee. Kemper points out that 80 years later many residents of Dayton refuse to accept Charles Darwin’s theory about the common ancestry of humans and primates.
19. Rethinking Politics: Consumers and the Public Good During the Jazz Age, Lawrence B. Glickman, OAH Magazine of History, July 2007
The census of 1920 revealed that for the first time in American history, more people lived in cities and towns than in the country. This development helped propel the change from a society dedicated to “producerism” to one based on consumption. Glickman discusses the emergence of what he calls “consumer politics.”UNIT 4. From the Great Depression to World War II
20. A Promise Denied, Wyatt Kingseed, American History, June 2004
On July 28, 1932, under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, US troops attacked a group called the “Bonus Army.” It was composed of World War I veterans who had come to Washington to demand that Congress pay them bonuses already promised. The use of violence against veterans shocked many Americans and severely damaged President Herbert Hoover’s reputation.
21. A Monumental Man, Gerald Parshall, U.S. News & World Report, April 28, 1997
Gerald Parshall discusses Franklin D. Roosevelt’s personal characteristics: his famous smile, his speeches, “fireside chats,” and his ability to “treat kings like commoners and commoners like kings.” Special attention is paid to “FDR’s splendid deception”—his determination to conceal the fact that a 1921 bout with polio had left him unable to walk.
22. When America Sent Her Own Packing, Steve Boisson, American History, October 2006
During the Great Depression about 1 million people of Mexican descent were driven from the United States by raids, deportations, and scare tactics. Los Angeles County, for instance, sponsored trains to “repatriate” Mexicans. Americans, bewildered by the economic disaster, sought a convenient scapegoat and “found it in the Mexican community.”
23. Wings Over America, Ruth Mitchell, American History, August 2002
The authors discuss the “golden age” of American aviation, focusing on the 1936 Bendix race that attracted great publicity and featured many of the nation’s top pilots. What was unusual about this race was the number of women pilots who entered, including Amelia Earhart and Jackie Cochran. Neither won, but another woman, Louise Thaden, took first prize.
24. Labor Strikes Back, Robert Shogan, American History, December 2006
In December 1936 the United Auto Workers launched a sit-down strike against General Motors. Shogan discusses events leading up to the strike and the violence that resulted. The success of the strike sparked a wave of similar actions in workplaces across the nation. According to the author, “the sit-down strikers wrote a new chapter in the annals of American labor.”
25. World War II: 1941 to 1945, Roger J. Spiller, American Heritage, November/December 2004
Spiller discusses a number of what he considers the best books about World War II. Collectively, these books enlarge our understanding of the war by sweeping away old myths and by placing the part played by the United States within a global context. “Each of these books,” he writes, “in its own way shows the reader how war calls forth the best and the most terrible human qualities.”
26. The Biggest Decision: Why We Had to Drop the Atomic Bomb, Robert James Maddox, American Heritage, May/June 1995
Some critics have argued that Japan was so close to surrender during the summer of 1945 that the use of atomic bombs was unnecessary. Robert Maddox shows that this criticism is misguided. The Japanese army, which controlled the situation, was prepared to fight to the finish, and it hoped to inflict such hideous casualties on invading forces that the United States would agree to a negotiated peace.UNIT 5. From the Cold War to 2007
27. Dollar Diplomacy, Niall Ferguson, The New Yorker, August 27, 2007
The end of World War II found the economic structure of Europe in ruins. The harsh winter of 1946-47, further depressed economic and social conditions. Fearing a collapse into chaos, American Secretary of State George C. Marshall in the spring of 1947 proposed a massive aid program to get Europe back on its feet. Niall Ferguson evaluates the Marshall Plan, which has been called “among the most noble experiences in human affairs.”
28. From Rosie the Riveter to the Global Assembly Line, Leila J. Rupp, OAH Magazine of History, July 2004
The decade of the 1950s, according to Rupp, has gone down as “a period of prosperity, conformity, domesticity, and suburbanization.” Rosie the Riveter of World War II was supposed to trade in her tools for an apron. This article shows that much of the discontent that burst out during the 1960s had roots in the previous decade—particularly with regard to the status of women.
29. The Civil Rights Movement in World Perspective, Kevin Gaines, OAH Magazine of History, January 2007
The American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950-1960s was not carried out in isolation. Rather, Kevin Gaines writes, it was “keenly observed by audiences from all over the world.” By the same token, American civil rights activists closely watched and learned from Black liberation efforts in Africa.
30. The Rise of Conservatism Since World War II, Dan T. Carter, OAH Magazine of History, January 2003
In 1964 conservative presidential candidate Barry Goldwater went down to a crushing defeat. Carter examines the sources of conservative discontent that began in the 1950s, and shows how these dissidents seized control of the Republican Party. In retrospect, conservatives lost a battle but not the war in 1964.
31. The Spirit of ’68, John B. Judis, The New Republic, August 31, 1998
According to John Judis, “America passed irreversibly during the Sixties from a culture of toil, sacrifice, saving, and abstinence to a culture of consumption, lifestyle, and quality of life.” He attributes these changes to the emergence of consumer capitalism, in response to which the counterculture as well as the religious right emerged.
32. Soft Power, Vladislav M. Zubok, The New Republic, June 21, 2004
Ronald Reagan, once considered by many to be a bungling incompetent, now occupies a much higher place in the ranks of 20th Century presidents. This transformation has come about, Zubok argues, not because of his embrace of militant policies such as Star Wars but because he sought the path of peace with the Soviet Union when the opportunity arose.
33. From Saigon to Desert Storm, Max Boot, American Heritage, November/December 2006
Author Boot describes “how the U.S. military reinvented itself after Vietnam.” Improvements in the quality of both personnel and equipment transformed American armed forces from the shambles of Vietnam into the magnificent fighting machine that carried out operation Desert Storm. Unfortunately, he points out, this army found itself less effective against irregular forces in the aftermath of the second war against Iraq.
34. The Tragedy of Bill Clinton, Garry Wills, New York Times Book Review, August 12, 2004
Most people agreed that Bill Clinton was an able politician, regardless of whether they agreed with his objectives. This article analyzes the man and the scandals that mortally wounded his presidency. Wills argues that Clinton would have better served himself and his programs had he resigned from office.
35. The Rove Presidency, Joshua Green, The Atlantic, September 2007
President George Bush’s key strategist, Karl Rove, “had the plan, the power, and the historic chance to remake American politics.” This seemed especially true after 9/11. The Bush/Rove vision of creating a permanent Republican majority dissipated through a series of blunders. “Bush will leave behind a legacy long on ambition,” Green writes, “and short on positive results.”UNIT 6. New Directions for American History
36. Refusing to Lose, Evan Thomas et al., Newsweek, July 23, 2007
“I don’t think Congress ought to be running the war,” President Bush has said, “I think they ought to be funding the troops.” As the war in Iraq grinds on, the administration insists that progress is being made and that victory will be achieved through perseverance. Opponents of the conflict are hard put to support alternatives that do not appear to be admissions of defeat.
37. A Legend’s Soul Is Rested, Ellis Cose, Newsweek, November 7, 2005
Rosa Parks’ defiant refusal to move to the back of a Montgomery, Alabama bus in 1955 catapulted her to fame. Her death in 2005 serves as a reminder of what remains to be done. “Its easy looking back some 50 years to see the insanity of the Southern system,” Cose writes, “but much more difficult to see (or become enraged about) the harm in today’s softer form of segregation.” He points to the alarming fact that school segregation is increasing and "remains a fundamental American reality."
38. Ending the Fool’s Game, Douglas Mattern, The Humanist, March/April 2004
“The greatest terrorism by far,” Mattern tells us, “is that each day the people of the world continue to be under the threat of nuclear incineration whether by an accidental missile launch, a computer error, or by design.” He echoes John F. Kennedy’s warning that “The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us.”
39. Pssst . . . Nobody Loves a Torturer, Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek, November 14, 2005
“Ask any American Soldier in Iraq when the general population really turned against the United States,” Zakaria writes, “and he will say ’Abu Ghraib.’” Yet, despite the furor over revelations of torture conducted there, the Bush administrative resists any attempts to curb treatment of prisoners in the future.
40. Global Warming, Gregg Easterbrook, The Atlantic, April 2007
Global warming, Easterbrook argues, could cause a “broad-based disruption of the global economy unparalleled by any event other than World War II.’ He points out that this phenomenon probably will do more harm to those nations already mired in poverty and might actually benefit the more affluent ones. He also discusses what must be done to stave off disaster.
41. Boomer Century, Joshua Zeitz, American Heritage, October 2005
“Baby Boomers” are generally referred to as those who were born between 1946 and 1964, a period when the national birthrate skyrocketed. “Raised in an era of unprecedented affluence and national omnipotence, but coming of age in a time that perceived more limited resources and diminished American power,” Zeitz points out, “the boomers have long been defined by a vain search for satisfaction.”
42. Does Meritocracy Work?, Ross Douthat, The Atlantic Monthly, November 2005
One study of elite universities concludes that they are today as much “bastions of privilege” as they are “engines of opportunity.” “Through boom and recession, war and peace,” the author writes, “the proportion of poorest Americans obtaining college degrees by age twenty—has remained around six percent.” Put briefly, American higher education is to a great extent class-based. A major obstacle to reform is that a more egalitarian system would run counter to the interests of elite Americans, precisely those people who have the greatest voice in the politics of higher education.