Texas Wesleyan University Course Syllabus

Spring 2018


Course: HIS 2324-05 Modern American History, 1877-present

Course Meeting Time: Tue/Thurs 1:30-2:45

                     Location: PMC 125

Office: PMC 244

Instructor: Chris Ohan

Office Hours: Monday and Wednesday 9-12 and 2-3; Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-5:30,

or by appointment

Phone: 817-531-4913

E-mail: cohan@txwes.edu

Webpage: www.historymuse.net


This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose…. “All men are created equal”—“government by the consent of the governed”—“give me liberty or give me death.”… In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries, and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty, risking their lives. –Lyndon B. Johnson (1965)


Course Description:  “This course will enable students to develop and demonstrate an adequate survey knowledge and understanding of American geography, politics, society, culture, economics, ideas, and beliefs from 1876 to the present.”  [Another way to put it: A survey of major internal and external developments and trends in U.S. history after the Civil War/Reconstruction period and from its rise as a global power in the Spanish American War to the present.  Relying on lecture and class discussion of source material, this class will focus on the importance of ideas for the period surveyed.]


Course Learning Outcomes: Students should be able to demonstrate a basic understanding of US history since Reconstruction; use historical comparison as an analytic tool; recognize the different interpretations of US history; appreciate and interpret multiple forms of evidence (textual, visual, oral, statistical, artifacts from material culture); differentiate between the major primary and secondary sources used in interpreting modern US history and understand how each is used.


This course is required as a partial fulfillment of the 12 credit hour GEC requirement in Cultural Literacy.


Learning Objectives                                                                                   Program Goals


Objective 1: Students completing this course should be able to demonstrate a basic understanding of the major events in US history since 1900.

1. Develop a general knowledge of human history, including a basic chronology of both western and non-western societies covering time periods from the ancient to the modern.

Objective 2: Student ought to be able to use historical comparison as an analytic tool; recognize the different interpretations of the various themes within this half world history.

2.  Understand Historical Interpretation and Historiography.


Objective 3: Students should appreciate and interpret multiple forms of evidence (textual, visual, oral, statistical, artifacts from material culture); differentiate between primary and secondary sources and understand how each is used via

a.       reading essays and primary sources relative to the period

b.       writing DBQ essays using primary sources.

c.       using computer software to produce all assignments.


3. Learn the various skills associated with the craft of history. These skills include:

a. Reading Comprehension and Cognitive Skills

b. Historical Thinking Skills

c. Research Skills

d. Written Communication Skills

e. Oral Communication Skills

f. Computer Literacy


Required Materials:

Foner, Give Me Liberty Vol. 2 (5e)


Foner, Voices of Freedom Vol. 2 (5e)


Additional texts on website (above)


Instructional Methods/Class Format:  Most class meetings will consist of a lecture (with some give and take as questions come up) and discussions of texts from the Voices of Freedom reader.  Please do not hesitate to bring up relevant questions and comments.  On the university level, I assume that you will complete the assigned reading—especially from the Voices text—for each class. 


Class Schedule: See below.


Evaluation and Grading:  Your grade for the semester will be based on three tests (10%, 15% and 25% respectively), and two outside-of-class essays (40%), plus 10% for participation.  Please see the Grading Rubrics posted on Wesleyan’s History Program website for specific grading criteria regarding written work.


Tests:  There will be two exams plus a final exam. The first exam will be multiple-guess, true/false and short answer; the second will be half essay and half multiple-choice; and the final will be all essay.  All exams will cover lecture material, occasional audio/video material, assigned supplemental readings, and discussions—basically anything that is covered in class meetings.  In total the three exams will make up 50% of your course grade.  The final exam will not be comprehensive. 


Test topics will come from supplemental texts, lectures, class discussions, occasional video material, and the textbook.  Test dates are listed below.


1.      20 February

2.      05 April

3.      10 May (Final Exam time: 1pm)


Short Essays:  Three short essays (2-3 type-written pages in length) will be assigned during the course of the semester over supplemental readings.  The top two essays will make up 40% of your final grade.  The specific essay questions are on the Essay Question Sheet.  The objective of the essays is for you to demonstrate your ability to critically evaluate primary sources as a way of retelling or arguing a perspective regarding an event in US history.  (This is, by the way, the historian’s craft.)


Writing for this course should employ standard academic formatting—double spaced, 12-point Times font, 1 inch margins all around—with citations following either MLA or Chicago style.  If you need help with this see the guides on the links page of the class website, the Wesleyan library or the instructor.  Correct use of source information and citations is assumed on the college level.  Failure to cite or format according to one of the styles listed will result in a lower grade.  See Grading Guidelines on the class webpage for specific grading criteria regarding written work. 


Late Submissions:  Please note that work submitted after the specific time that it’s due will be penalized at the rate of one letter grade per day.  No work which is more than 4 days late will be accepted.  Please do not waste time with excuses; just get assignments turned in.


Classroom Participation:  Class discussion is an integral part of this class.  Students are expected to complete the required readings before coming to class.  If you do not complete the assigned readings prior to a class meeting, you may be quizzed or asked to leave the classroom. 


Make-up for the exams is discouraged and will be administered only for officially excused absences.  Students normally perform poorly on make-up exams.  Please note that the format of any makeup exam will be at the discretion of the instructor.


Internet/Blackboard:  Feel free to send e-mail to the address above.  Email is the official means of communication outside of actual class meetings so do check it regularly.  In addition, this syllabus, the lecture/reading schedule, as well as some of the course readings and any other class handouts will be posted on the above web address.  Please note that all outside of class writing assignments will be submitted via Blackboard.


Attendance is mandatory.  If you miss more than 3 classes (for us, the equivalent of one week) consider the effect on your grade.  Should you miss more, please do not offer excuses, notes or request special consideration.  Keep in mind a) that “dropping a course” is perfectly legitimate when circumstances arise that prevent you from completion, and b) that I should not be expected to change class expectations based on your circumstances.  You are responsible for all class assignments regardless of attendance.  Quizzes covering assigned readings may be given at any time and factored into the course grade at the discretion of the instructor.  If you are unable to complete this course, you must withdraw from it.  Please note that if you miss more than the equivalent of one-week’s worth of class, I reserve the right to drop you from the course.  The last date to drop is Tuesday, 17 April.


Texas Wesleyan University Policies:


·   Students should read the current Texas Wesleyan University Catalog and Student Handbook to become familiar with University policies.


·   Cheating, plagiarism (submitting another person’s material as one’s own), or completing assignments for another person who will receive academic credit are impermissible. This includes the use of unauthorized books, notebooks, or other sources in order to secure or give help during an examination, the unauthorized copying of examinations, assignments, reports, or term papers, or the presentation of unacknowledged material as if it were the student’s own work.  Disciplinary action may be taken beyond the academic discipline administered by the course instructor. Course exams may not be printed out. Any person possessing a hardcopy of a course exam will be in breach of copyright and may be held liable.]


·   Texas Wesleyan University adheres to a disability policy which is in keeping with relevant federal law. The University will provide appropriate accommodation as determined by the Director of the Counseling Center, Dr. Michael Ellison. Students must notify instructors of any permanent or temporary disabilities and must provide documentation regarding those disabilities prior to the granting of an accommodation. For assistance, students should consult with Dr. Ellison at mellison@txwes.edu or (817) 531-7565.


·   Course syllabi are intended to provide students with basic information concerning the course. The syllabus can be viewed as a 'blueprint' for the course; changes in the syllabus can be made and students will be informed of any substantive changes concerning examinations, the grading or attendance policies and changes in project assignments.


·   Any course taken at Texas Wesleyan University and repeated for a grade must be repeated at Texas Wesleyan University. Any course taken at another university may be repeated at Texas Wesleyan, and the most recent grade on the course will be counted. When a course is repeated, the grade point average will be computed using the most recent grade achieved.


·   As noted in the catalog under the Unified Discrimination and Harassment Policy, Texas Wesleyan University is committed to providing an environment free of all forms of prohibited discrimination and sexual harassment.  If you have experienced any such discrimination or harassment, including gender- or sex-based forms, know that help and support are available from the following resources:

o Complete online incident report: StART Incident Report Form

o Contact Campus Conduct Hotline (24 hours a day): (866) 943-5787

o Campus security (24 hours a day): (817) 531-4911

o Dean of Students: deanofstudents@txwes.edu OR (817) 531-4872

o Please be aware that all Texas Wesleyan University employees, other than designated confidential resources (i.e., Community Counseling Center) are required to report credible evidence of prohibited discrimination or harassment to the University’s Title IX Coordinator, or to one of the Title IX Assistant Coordinators.  If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, please contact the Community Counseling Center at (817) 531-4859 to schedule an appointment.


Academic Integrity:


Familiarize yourself with Wesleyan’s Student Code of Conduct.  Academics are not only devoted to learning, research, and the advancement of knowledge, but also to the development of ethically sensitive and responsible persons. By accepting membership in this class, you are joining a community characterized by free expression, free inquiry, honesty, respect for others, and participation in constructive change.  All rights and responsibilities exercised within this academic environment shall be compatible with these principles. 


Academic Dishonesty is a breach of the Student Code of Conduct.  Dishonesty includes:

  1. Plagiarism, representing the work of another as one's own work;
  2. Preparing work for another that is to be used as that person's own work;
  3. Cheating by any method or means;
  4. Knowingly and willfully falsifying or manufacturing scientific or educational data and representing the same to be the result of scientific or scholarly experiment or research;
  5. Knowingly furnishing false information to a university official relative to academic matters;
  6. Soliciting, aiding, abetting, concealing, or attempting conduct in violation of this code.


Academic Dishonesty will not be tolerated in this course. Any offense will result in an F in the class (not simply on the assignment) and be referred to the appropriate academic officials for adjudication. If you have any questions regarding this subject please see me.  For a detailed description and further clarification, please see the link for “Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty” on my website, the 2017-2019 Wesleyan Catalog (p. 84-86), or the Student Handbook.




My Goal in teaching this class is not that you “learn” the modern history of the US.  (Learning about the past is, however, an important consequence.)  Rather, my goal is to teach you how to think critically about the past which is more useful.  For our purposes, therefore, ideas will hold precedence over facts, dates, and the like.  It is important that you consider the classroom an open forum for discussion—of anything related to the themes and topics of the course.  (Of course, any argument—whether spoken or written—must be supported.)  While I (or other students) may challenge beliefs/perspectives, realize that the purpose is not to change them.  An open/tolerant attitude is essential in this class.  Remember—this is a college course where you ought to be able to discuss things openly and intelligently.  If you choose to be intolerant and interrupt class discussion, I reserve the right to ask you to leave the classroom. 


Tentative Lecture Topic and Reading List

            (Numbered items are found in Foner’s Voices of Freedom text)

January 18






Jan 23

iRead Worksheet Exercise





Jan 25

Nineteenth Century Introduction

From Isolation to Empire: The Spanish American War

Readings: Foner 16, 17; 104. “Sumner on Social Darwinism;” Beveridge, “America’s Destiny”; T. Roosevelt, “Message on the Caribbean”; 114. Strong, Our Country; 115. “Aguinaldo on American Imperialism in the Philippines”





Jan 30

The Progressive Era: Sources, Leaders, and Issues

Readings: Foner 18; 122. “Wilson and the New Freedom”; Sinclair, “The Jungle”; Addams, “The Spirit of Youth”; Gompers, “What Does the Working Man Want?





Feb 1

Wilson: The Invasion of the U.S. and the War to End War

Readings: Foner 19; 124. Wilson, “A World Safe for Democracy”; 125. Bourne, War is the Health of the State; 126. “A Critique of the Versailles Peace Conference”





Feb 6

Politics and Society in the “Roaring Twenties”

Readings: Foner 20; 136. “Meyer and the Meaning of Liberty”; Antin, “Russian Jews”; Bourne, Trans-National America; 129. Bond, “The Great Migration”; 135. “Congress Debates Immigration”; 100. Douglass, “The Composite Nation”;





Feb 8

The Great Depression:  Causes and Solutions

FDR and the New Deal

Readings: Foner 21; 140. Steinbeck, The Harvest Gypsies; 142. FDR, “Speech to the Democratic National Convention”; 143. “Hoover on the New Deal and Liberty”; Lesueur, “Women on the Breadlines”; FDR, “First Inaugural Address





Feb 13, 15

Reaction and Counteraction:  The American Road to War

The United States in World War II

Readings: Foner 22; 147. FDR, “The Four Freedoms”; 149. “The American Century”; 153. “African Americans and the Four Freedoms”; 154. “Dissent in Korematsu”; Hersey, “Hiroshima”; Evans, American Women at War





Feb 20

Test #1





Feb 22

Joseph Stalin: “Man of the Year”

Crash Course on all things Soviet

Readings: Foner 23 (pp. 905-927); Kennan, “Sources of Soviet Conduct”; 156. “The Truman Doctrine”; 157. “NSC-68”; 158. Lippmann, “A Critique of Containment”; 159. Universal Declaration of Human Rights;





Feb 27

The Early Cold War in America

Readings: Foner 23 (pp. 927-939); 161.McCarthy on the Attack”; 162. Smith’ s Declaration of Conscience; 163. Herberg, “The American Way of Life”





March 1, 6




Readings: Foner 24 (pp. 957-968, 978-981), 25 (pp. 1002-1014, 1024-1028), 26 (pp. 1037-1041); 155. “Declaration of Independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam”; 176. “Potter on the Anti-war Movement”; MLK, “A Time to Break Silence


March 8, 20

America’s “Backyard” (Latin America)

Readings:  180. Jimmy Carter on Human Rights; JFK, "Alliance for Progress"



March 22

Reagan, Gorbachev, and the End of the Cold War

Readings: Foner 26; 187. Reagan, “First Inaugural Address”; Gorbachev “Speech Dissolving the USSR”, “43rd U.N. General Assembly Session



March 27

Post Cold War America

Readings: Foner 27; 189. “Bill Clinton, Speech on the Signing of NAFTA”; 190. “Declaration for Global Democracy”; 191. “The Beijing Declaration on Women”; David Rieff, Slaughter in Yugoslavia



April 3

Searching for a New Diplomacy in a Global Society

Readings: Foner 28; 190. “Declaration for Global Democracy”; 193. “National Security Strategy”; 194. “Byrd on the War in Iraq”; 198. “Security, Liberty, and the War on Terror”; Mohammed Atta, The Last Night; Abbas Amanat, Empowered Through Violence



April 5

Test 2



April 10

1950s: The Early Civil Rights Movement

Readings: Foner 24; 96 “Petition of the Committee on Behalf of the Freedmen to Andrew Johnson;” 97. “The Mississippi Black Code;” 100. Douglass, “The Composite Nation”; 121. Terrell, What it means to be Colored…”; 166. “The Southern Manifesto”; 174. Johnson, “Commencement Address at Howard”



April 12, 17

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X: Two Different Approaches to Civil Rights

LBJ’s “Great Society”

Readings: Foner 25; 146. Du Bois, “A Negro Nation within a Nation”; 170. “MLK and the Montgomery Bus Boycott”; MLK, Letter from a Birmingham Jail; 172. Malcolm X, The Ballot or the Bullet; Carmichael “Black Power



April 19

The Chicano Civil Rights Movement:

Chavez and the Plight of Migrant Farm Workers

La Raza Unida

Readings: Foner 25 (pp. 1018-1019); 116. “Gamio on a Mexican-American Family and American Freedom”; 152. “World War II and Mexican Americans”; Mendez v. Westminster; 178. Chavez, “Letter from Delano”; Gonzales, Congressional Record, 91st Congress;

April 24

Women’s Rights Movement

Readings: Foner 25 (pp. 2014-1017); 117. Gilman, Women and Economics; 120. “Sanger on “Free Motherhood”; 127. Catt, “Address to Congress on Women’s Suffrage”; 177. “The National Organization for Women”; 180. “Brochure on the ERA”; 185 Schlafly, “The Fraud of the ERA”; Friedan, “The Feminine Mystique”; Roe v. Wade



April 26

The Gay and Lesbian Civil Right Movement

Readings: Foner 25 (pp. 1017-1018), 28 (pp. 1125-1126); Kennedy and O’Connor on Lawrence; 197. Kennedy, Opinion of the Court in Obergefell v. Hodges


May 1, 3

The Status of Civil Rights Today

Readings: Foner 28; 175. Port Huron Statement; 192. Charukamnoetkanok, “Triple Identity”; 196. Mahoney, “Called by God to Help”; 199. Obama, Eulogy at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church



May 8

Final Class: Review



May 10

Test 3 (1-3pm)



HIS 2324-05 Essay Questions and Due Dates

Spring 2018


The objective of these essays is for you to demonstrate your ability to use primary sources in formulating arguments.  Please note that use of information/sources other than the assigned readings or textbook should not be used.


Papers should fully answer each set of questions, be logical, coherent, and grammatically sound. All essays must be 2-3 pages (typed and double-spaced, MLA or Chicago style). Papers are due by 10 am on the date listed and should be turned in through Blackboard. Because one of the essay grades is dropped.


Arguments differ from opinion in that arguments require evidence.


Remember that only two of the papers will count toward your final course grade. If you write all three, only the top two grades will be used.


Essay 1: February 6


(This question is based on the discussion from class on January 30.  The objective is for you to portray/explain/describe a specific time period/event based on information in primary sources.)


Using the documents assigned for January 30, explain/describe what made the Progressive Era a time of reform in the United States.


Essay 2: March 20


(This question draws on class and readings on March 1 and 6.  The objective is for you to construct an argument based on information in primary sources.)


The Vietnam War had a profound effect on the United States.  Using the documents listed for March 1 and 6, argue whether or not the US was justified in a) opposing Ho Chi Minh’s bid for independence and b) sending US troops to the country. 


Essay 3: May 3


(This question looks at readings on civil rights from April 24 and 26.  The objective is for you to not only understand the arguments in these documents, but for you to find a similar contemporary position for which these primary source documents can be used as support/evidence.


Recent issues involving law enforcement officers and representatives of minority groups—whether those are connected to movements such as “Black Lives Matter” or are seen in the racial profiling of, for example, Arab Americans at airport security checks—seem to indicate that civil rights remains an import issue in the US today. 


Examine the Supreme Court’s rationale for allowing women to have abortions in Roe v. Wade (1973).  How is that rationale similar to that in the Supreme Court’s rationale in Obergefell et al. v. Hodges (2015)? 


Then, find a contemporary, credible source document (from 2015 until now) describing a problem for which the rationale of these two Supreme Court decisions could be used to solve or at least constructively address civil rights issues in the US today. 


Hint:  For this last assignment, the similar or common rationale will serve and the thesis of the essay.