May 31

Book Women Blog – Extra Credit

Much thanks to Em Rito for writing this up.

The Book Women, a play released in 2022, created by Rachel Bublitz, follows the storyline of four women (Della “Star” Harlow, Sissy Mae Harlow, Erma Frey, and Josephine Jolly) on one of their day to day journey’s through the Appalachian Mountains as they deliver books, magazines, letters, newspapers, and other reading material to people of any age in an attempt to literate the mountains. Starting off the day previous, we are introduced to the main cast as well as Leo Burnet (played by Josh Kroll), a reporter from New York City who came to do an article on the book women and their jobs that are funded by the government through FDR’s ‘New Deal’, an attempt to release the strife endured due to the Great Depression. Leo Burnet is sent out on the following day with Della Harlow (played by Laini Seltzer) as she shows him her work and the way around the mountains of Kentucky.

A Mighty Girl - A pack horse librarian delivering books in rural Kentucky in 1938. During the Great Depression, the Pack Horse Library Project was a Works Progress Administration (WPA) program in

As well as Burnet’s attempts of learning the way of the book women, Sissy Mae Harlow (played by Morgan Goodrich), Della’s younger sister, is taken around the mountains and is informed as to how to be a book women by Josephine Jolly (played by Christina Jones) whom she will be replacing, due to Josephine having to leave them behind to take care of sickly family members. Starting off despising the work, Sissy Mae learns to love the job and eventually permanently replaces Josphine, since she is sadly unable to return to her work.

Erma Frey’s (played by Ellie Frank) journey may not be as adventurous as the other three book women, at first, but she comes across Cora Walker (played by Madeline Zdrojewski), who is struggling with the difficulties of losing her mother and no longer having any direct family remaining, and helps her cope with the loss and takes her along her route and later to her uncle’s house so she’ll have someone to be with her.

The Book Women

Book Women is a truly fantastic play on the impact of women, the New Deal, and the south, as a whole, and brings light to programs hidden at the time due to the fact that they were women led. Plays published like this bring great amounts of light to parts of history forgotten or disregarded along the way, and it covers many different aspects that must be considered. So, for this extra credit blog on the Book Women, I am asking you to answer all three of the following questions:

  1. The Book Women being one of the many branch offs of the WPA was one of the most impactful programs in the Appalachian Mountains, but there were many more that changed how the US functioned at the time. So, how did the WPA (in and outside of the Book Women) impact people during the Great Depression and was it a useful program and part of the New Deal?
  2. As shown in Newsies, as well, the press played an extremely important role in the opinions of people throughout the US’ history. How was Leo Burnet’s article and others among the sorts extremely influential and helpful to programs like the WPA?
  3. As stated in the title, the play Book Women primarily revolves around the working women of the 1930s, but there were many different opinions shared about the idea of working women at the time, even though they were legally supposed to be treated equally since 1920. So, how was the importance of women changing during this time and what viewpoints were changing? 

300 words minimum for all three answers.  Due by June 2nd by midnight. 

May 24

Blog #172 – Reflections on a year in APUSH

This blog is part of your final exam, so please take some time and think about your answers.

400 words minimum for your total response of all of the questions.  Please number your answers in the comment section.

1. A lot of our time this year has been spent reading, writing, studying, watching videos, reflecting, and talking about American history.  Discuss what your favorite learning style was this year and why it was effective for you.  Also, explain which was your least favorite way to learn and explain why it doesn’t work for you.

2. We studied a lot of stuff this year – from the Pilgrims to the Revolution to Andrew Jackson to Abe Lincoln to Alice Paul to the Depression and the Cold War.  What did you wish we had spent more time on than we did this year and why?

3. Yep, we studied a whole lot of stuff this year, but I bet you wish there were some units that were shorter or didn’t go as in depth.  What did you wish we had studied less of and explain why (keep in mind that if the info didn’t make it onto the test doesn’t mean it won’t be there next year)?

4.  People talk a lot about takeaways – a summary of an experience, distilled down to one or two sentences.  What is your takeaway from APUSH (or in other words, what did you truly learn about American history)?

Due by 11:59 p.m. on June 6th.  

May 24

Blog #171 – The Post

I really hoped that you enjoyed the movie, The Post.  I think there is some pretty smart acting, decent writing, and a slice of 1971 politics and newspapers.  As we saw, the Washington Post was trying to become more than just a regular, “local paper” as they called it, when Katherine Graham, the publisher played by Meryl Streep, looked to sell stock in the company and raise $3 million to hire 25 new reporters.  At the same time that this stock offering is getting ready to go, the New York Times began publishing the opening series of the Pentagon Papers, a 7,000 page report detailing American involvement in Vietnam from 1945 – 1967.  Ben Bradlee, the editor in chief for the Post, played by Tom Hanks, wants those papers too, since he sees the Times as his paper’s biggest competitor.  Image result for the post movie reviews

Please answer the following questions:

  1. A lot of the movie tries to be faithful to the 1971 time frame – pay phones, newspapers, teletype, black and white TVs, the clothes, etc.  How has life changed since then, and is this movie glorifying an age (the age of crusading newspapers) that may never come back?  Why or why not?
  2. Examine how the film portrayed Katherine Graham as the lone woman in a sea of powerful male players – lawyers, bankers, etc.  Provide specifics from the film as it shows her growth from socialite publisher to powerful player.
  3. The film’s reviews – many have made the case that this film is timely and completely relevant to today.  Freedom of the press is something that must be fought for, again and again.  You could see that Nixon had tried to muzzle the press with the injunctions against the Times and the Post, but the Supreme Court had rescued the press w/ its 6-3 decision in U.S. v. New York Times.  With what’s going on w/ the media (“fake news”) and other issues, how do you see this film as relevant and timely?  And why is freedom of the press so important?

400 words minimum for all  three questions. 

Due Monday, June 3 by midnight.  

NYT review –

Variety review –


May 24

Blog #170 – Green Book

This movie, Green Book, portrays the lives of two very complex men, Dr. Don Shirley and Tony Lip (Vallelonga) and the friendship that they forged in the 1960s.  The movie takes place amidst the backdrop of the Civil Rights Movement and takes the main characters to places – it seems – untouched by any Civil Right agitation.  The men are a portrait of contrasts – Tony as a sloppy, uncouth Italian tough guy while Dr. Shirley is uptight, ultra-focused (on music), and very alone.  In many respects, this is somewhat of a formulaic movie that works like a buddy comedy or a road trip movie, but there’s much more to the film (and their relationship) than that.  Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali in "Green Book."The actors, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali feel that the movie has an understated power that just lets its characters interact in interesting and human ways.

“One thing I felt was really valuable, in the script, was that it didn’t tell you what to think,” Mortensen said. “It didn’t tell you what to feel. Yes, there’s a history lesson. There’s a civics lesson there. You could even say that there’s a cautionary tale that can be applied to our time, or any time really, in terms of discrimination, racism, ignorance.”

“I will say if it was 10 years ago or 20 years ago it would be a movie for our time,” said Ali. “I think the difference is, a heightened awareness about the division in our country, in the last couple of years. I think there’s more eyes on the problems, and the things that need to be bridged between communities. And I do feel that this film fits perfectly in the culture right now, as far as something that can serve as an example of what is possible.”

Even in some of the darkest, most racist parts of the South, Dr. Shirley maintains his dignity even when asked to use segregated bathrooms or refused service in a white restaurant, even at the same place where he is playing later that night.  Yet he is tormented by his demons, he drinks to silence them, and his inability to not be his true self haunts him.  By just existing, by playing the piano in such an excellent manner, Dr. Shirley defies what white America at the time thought of Black Americans.  He wasn’t making speeches, he wasn’t marching with Dr. King, but Dr. Shirley was on the “front lines” of the Civil Rights Movement.

Pick 3 of the following questions to answer about the film: 

  1. How does Ali’s portrayal of Dr. Shirley show his complexity at being a closeted Black musician in Jim Crow America?  Give specifics.
  2. Explain how Dr. Shirley was “on the front lines of the Civil Rights Movement” just by playing the piano in a tour of the Deep South in 1962.
  3. What historical elements in the film let you know that this movie takes place in 1962?  Explain with details.
  4. How do both Tony and Dr. Shirley move from barely tolerating one another to a place of real friendship by the end of the movie?  Explain with details.
  5. How does this movie about a friendship made over 50 years ago speak to today’s audiences and what does it say about our country today?

350 words minimum.  Due by Friday, May 31 by midnight. 

NBC News on Green Book –


April 19

Blog #169 – FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights

As part of his State of the Union address on January 11, 1944, President Roosevelt presented the nation with a 2nd Bill of Rights – economic rights that the government would have to guarantee for all Americans once the laws were passed.  Take a look at the following video:

Some of the key passages are as follows:
“It is our duty now to begin to lay the plans and determine the strategy for the winning of a lasting peace and the establishment of an American standard of living higher than ever before known. We cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.
We have come to a clear realization of the fact that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence…People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.
In our day these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all—regardless of station, race, or creed.
Among these are:
1. The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation (since, currently, only 2-3% of the nation are farmers and less than 20% are in industry, this would have to change if this BoR / laws were implemented);
2. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
3. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living (since so few of us are farmers now, this might change);
4. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;
5. The right of every family to a decent home;
6. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health (did we just achieve this in 2010 with the passage of ObamaCare?);
7. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;
8. The right to a good education.
All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward, in the implementation of these rights, to new goals of human happiness and well-being.  For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.”

He listed 8 things that would bring economic security to our nation and hopefully, by extension, to the rest of the world.  At the point that he gave this address in history, America was NOT planning on a Cold War with the Soviet Union or stockpiling tens of thousands of nuclear missiles or spending billions on a military budget every year.  That would come later.  None of the 46 years of futility vs. the Soviet Union (1945-1991) was set in stone, nor the explosion and entrenchment of the military-industrial complex in our national economy like it is today (in 2023, the federal government spent over $800 billion for the Defense Department –

However, America was coming out of the war w/ its biggest national debt in its history (having borrowed $200 billion from the American people in war bonds – $170 billion held by U.S. taxpayers – and from American banks + $100 billion in income taxes).  Congressmen were wary of spending additional huge amounts of money on peace time programs, especially for FDR, because his New Deal programs had had such a mixed track record of success and failure.

The reason I bring this issue up is b/c I think that the country has spent the next 80 years (and may continue) to try to achieve or reverse his goals.  Some administrations have added small pieces to FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights, while other administrations have tried to rollback or even repeal other aspects of it.  

Your questions to answer: 
1. Out of the 8 new rights listed above, which of them do you believe have been addressed in some way or another since 1944?  Try to pick at least 2 and explain our country has tried to address them or parts of these rights (if you choose #6 – adequate medical care – please try to do some research and not repeat misinformation that you might have heard, i.e., it’s going to save billions, death panels (an initial criticism of Obamacare when it was proposed), it forces everyone to buy insurance, etc.)

2. Which of these 8 rights should be the one that is immediately addressed or fixed by our Congress and President?  Why?

3. Which one of these seems the least likely to be enforceable / possible to make an economic right (please don’t pick the farming right – it doesn’t affect too many people)?  Why?

350 words minimum total for all three answers.  Due Thursday, April 25th by class.    

Further reading:
To read a book review entitled: “FDR’s 2nd Bill of Rights: A New New Deal” click here.
A response to this book from Forbes magazine who say that only one Bill of Rights is quite enough. click here.
Here’s an analysis of how the 2nd Bill is going so far: Click here.
An article about how the 2nd BoR violates the Constitution, click here.

March 18

Blog #168 – Looking at the Spanish American War through a gender lens

Throughout the year, we use different lens with which to analyze certain events – we can analyze events or people’s actions through an economic lens or a political lens or a social / cultural lens.  During our Reconstruction unit, we used a racial lens to look at how Reconstruction policies affected free Blacks.  Now, we turn to American imperialism and instead of analyzing American foreign policy, or our relationship with other nations, through a diplomatic lens or a commercial lens, I am asking you to use the lens of gender to explore the Spanish American War.  This angle was originally presented by historian Kristin Hoganson in 1998.  To help you answer the questions raised by this blog, you’ll need to have read the article, “En-Gendering the Spanish American War”.

The Image-Makers' Arsenal in an Age of War and Empire, 1898–1899: A Cartoon Essay, Featuring the Work of Charles Bartholomew (of the Minneapolis Journal) and Albert Wilbur Steele (of the Denver Post) |

The question that this gender lens attempts to ask is, is there another way of looking at the causes of the Spanish-American War?

First, some context for Teddy Roosevelt’s charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the war.  He was part of a generation of Americans who were raised on glorious tales of Civil War gallantry told by the veterans of the war.  TR’s generation of men aspired to have their own fight where they could test their courage and honor, and the Spanish American War provided such a chance hopefully without the grizzly slaughter of four years of a civil war.  Also, TR’s father had not fought in the Civil War being too busy making money (and also paid a substitute to take his place).  Furthermore, TR grew up as a very sickly, asthmatic child who was very fragile until he reinvented himself in his 20s out on the Great Plains in North Dakota raising cattle in the summers.  It’s likely he never thought that when he was a boy listening to stories of valor at Gettysburg would he get a chance to do the same thing and face an enemy with bullets flying at him.  Lastly, when the war started, TR resigned his post in the McKinley administration as Assistant Secretary of the Navy to form his own militia unit for the war which was dubbed by the press, “the Rough Riders” but he called this militia unit the Children of the Dragon’s Blood.  TR would also later go on to defend what he would call “the strenuous life” which included playing manly sports, continual exertion, challenging nature through hunting and exploration, cleaning up corruption, busting trusts, and waving around the ultimate symbol of his manhood, his “big stick” in the international arena.

So why did America come to the defense of the Cubans in 1898? The article lists the following possible reasons:

  • commercial rewards of empire
  • an extension of a global Manifest Destiny
  • a quest for naval bases
  • humanitarian concerns for the Cubans
  • a chance to enact some Christian “uplift” for the people who are “freed”
  • glory
  • revenge for the destruction of the U.S.S. Maine
  • motivated / inspired / enraged by yellow journalism in the newspapers of Hearst and Pulitzer

The World from New York, New York on March 9, 1898 · Page 1

But the article proposed another cause – a crisis of upper and middle class white manhood.  There seemed to be threats to traditional notions of manhood all around – the creature comforts of an industrial America were making men “soft” and “sluggish”; making money by bending or breaking ethical norms seemed to corrode the traditional manly sense of honor and integrity; some men lost their jobs, their self-respect, and their independence and vitality because of the Depression of 1893; but possibly most shocking was the rise of the “New Woman” who wanted the right to vote and participate in politics (traditionally the man’s responsibility).  In this new era, women’s virtue was considered by many to be superior to men’s because of all the economic, social, and political problems that men’s “virtue” had caused from 1865-1898 that the Progressive Era would try to solve was trying to solve.   I mean, let’s remember that many middle and upper class white women were leading the reformist charge during that era.

Let’s take a look at another cartoon from this time period.  Here’s a cartoon from Puck (which is normally anti-imperialist compared to its counterpart, Judge). Spanish-American War 1898 Namerican Cartoon By Louis Dalrymple From Puck 1898 Urging War With Spain To Save Cuba Poster Print by (18 x 24): Posters & Prints

Done by artist Louis Dalrymple, published in May, 1898.  The caption reads, “The duty of the hour – to save her not only from Spain but from a worse fate.”  After reading this article, I’d like you to interpret this cartoon through the gendered lens mentioned in the article.

Your job – answer the following questions:

  1. Do you agree with this gendered interpretation of the causes of the Spanish American War?  Why or why not?
  2. What is a strength of using this lens?  What is a weakness?  Explain.
  3. Interpret the cartoon above of the Cuban woman in a frying pan (or the one below of the Rough Riders) using the gender lens.   Describe in detail how you can use gender to interpret different aspects of the cartoon.

A minimum of 400 words total for all three answers.  Due by class on March 21.

Spanish American War Political Cartoon High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy

An article on how the Span-Am War led to American empire –

An analysis of the American / British alliance that grew out of the Span-Am War as shown in cartoons –

March 6

Blog #167 – Social Darwinism and the Eugenics Movement

 Social Darwinism – the term actually – is hard to pin down as to its origins.   Some sources say that it’s a knock against Darwin when his critics try to apply Darwin’s evolutionary biology to a contemporary social context, an application that Darwin never intended.   Other sources say that SD should really be called “survival of the fittest” because the man who first proposed these SD ideas, Herbert Spencer, also coined the “survival” phrase.  Regardless of its orgins, SD was used to deny aiding the massive number of poor folks by saying that the aid would be in violation of natural law, and that they should essentially be allowed to die.  Being poor or unemployed was all your fault back then, and not the fault of an exploitative system or random chance or some other valid reason why you might be poor.  On the flip side, people like John Rockefeller used SD in a business context to justify his ruthless tactics employed against his competition, that he was doing God’s will by eliminating weaker, wasteful oil refineries and taking over the dominant share of the oil business.


“Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”  Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, jr. from the 1927 SCOTUS case, Buck v. Bell, which approved involuntary sterilization laws around the country.   


Eugenics was an ambitious, worldwide program that set about to eliminate the lowest tenth of the human population by restricting marriages and involuntarily sterilizing those who were considered to be “feebleminded,” petty criminals, epileptics, people with a family history of mental illness, “pauperism,” and alcoholics.  The lowest tenth also included, in America, blacks, Jews, Mexicans, and immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe.   In many ways, this technique is akin to treating human beings like live stock and culling the weak to improve the gene pool.  So, beginning in the 20th Century, with the help of such philanthropic giants as the Carnegie Institute and the Rockefeller Foundation, prominent eugenicists wrote and recommended sterilization policies that would become laws in 28 states by 1932.  60,000 Americans would eventually have their reproductive rights taken from them, though Eugenics enthusiasts sought to eliminate almost 14 million Americans 1.


Eugenics actually originated with Charles Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton, who drew conclusions from his examinations of prominent British families and inherited traits.  An Italian physician named Cesare Lombroso added to this field of knowledge by stating “there exists…a group of criminals, born for evil, against whom all social cures break against a rock – a fact which compels us to eliminate the[se criminals] completely, even by death.”   in 1874, an English doctor named Jugdale examined on inmates in a New York jail, especially six who were related.  Jugdale discovered that these inmates’ family tree was “full of social deviants” 2.  Primarily, Eugenicists felt that the desired human traits were those of successful white businessmen and women of Northern and Western European ethnicities. This categorization of positive and negative traits by the eugenicists was given additional confirmation in 1917-18 when almost 2 million men who were drafted into the U.S. Army were given an IQ and personality test.  The justification at the time for such a broad sweeping round of tests was to find those who the most “insane, feebleminded, psychopathic and nueropathic individuals” and keep them out of front line service in World War 1 because of a new phenomenon named “shell shock” that incapacitated 15% of all soldiers in the war. 3  However, because the test results asked questions about elite and urban pop culture, the overwhelming majority of men from Western and Northern European backgrounds passed the test.4

The First Personality Test Was Developed During World War I | History | Smithsonian Magazine

Coupled with the influx of millions of new immigrants from different places like Eastern and Southern Europe and Asia, old stock Americans (WASPs) looked for reasons to restrict this flood of “an army of the unfit”.  Americans were further influenced by the best selling book, The Passing of the Great Race by Madison Grant who sounded the alarm bells about the “superior” white race being overrun by an exploding population of the “inferior” races.  So, America began passing laws that limited immigration from those parts of Europe – 1921’s Emergency Immigration (or Quota) Act placed a quota of just 3% of any group’s population based on the 1910 Census.  In 1924, the national Origins Act went further by changing the quota to 2% and changing the Census date to 1890, adversely affecting the most recent additions to America.  The 1924 law also restricted Asian citizenship as well.

Found In The Archives: America's Unsettling Early Eugenics Movement : The Picture Show : NPR

Also, some of the country’s most famous philanthropic foundations, founded by Carnegie’s and Rockefeller’s money, funded eugenics research: “America’s first general-purpose philanthropic foundations — Russell Sage (founded 1907), Carnegie (1911), and Rockefeller (1913) — backed eugenics precisely because they considered themselves to be progressive. After all, eugenics had begun to point the way to a bold, hopeful human future through the application of the rapidly advancing natural sciences and the newly forming social sciences to human problems. By investing in the progress and application of these fields, foundations boasted that they could delve down to the very roots of social problems, rather than merely treating their symptoms. Just as tracking physiological diseases back to parasites and microbes had begun to eliminate the sources of many medical ailments, so tracking social pathology — crime, pauperism, dipsomania, and “feeblemindedness,” a catch-all term for intellectual disabilities — back to defective genes would allow us to attack it at its source. As John D. Rockefeller put it, “the best philanthropy is constantly in search of the finalities — a search for cause, an attempt to cure evils at their source.'” 5  These foundations were able to finance the work of the Eugenics Records Office which compiled data about human genetics and promoted the eugenics agenda across the nation between 1910 – 1939.

But, the worst part about the eugenics movement is that the American movement became the envy of the German National Socialist Party as they rose to power in the late 1920s.  “The National Socialist Physicians League head Gerhard Wagner praised America’s eugenic policies and pointed to them as a model for Germany” 2.   In fact, during the 1930s, both American and German eugenic scientists and programs exchanged information and praised each other as model programs for other like-minded countries to follow.   Euthanasia of the insane was proposed in Alabama in 1936 if compulsory sterilization wasn’t enough to stop the increase in number coming into sanitariums.   Even the inventor of the iron lung suggested that the insane be disposed of efficiently “in small euthanasia facilities supplied with proper gases” 2.


Though American eugenics programs did not have the depth or breadth that the Nazi eugenics program had (the Holocaust), compulsory sterilization laws were still in effect until the late 1960s and early 1970s.  In fact, 60,000 doesn’t compare with 6 million or even 11 million if you count all of the victims of the Nazi genocidal machine.


But that doesn’t minimize the fact that America is supposed to be a democracy that allows many freedoms and protects peoples’ rights, and during this sad history, the country and its states chose to interfere with peoples’ right to marry whomever they wanted and also to have children.  When the laws of the land and the courts of the land uphold those immoral laws based upon bogus science, what recourse do the “weak” have?   Isn’t that what the government’s job is – protect the less powerful from exploitation from those in power, in cases like these?



1. Do states bear any responsibility for the compulsory sterilization laws that they had passed in the early part of the 20th Century?  Why or why not?  If so, what should be done for those surviving victims, especially the ones who are still alive who were sterilized in the 1960s or 1970s?  If not, explain why those states don’t bear any responsibility.

2. Do you think the philanthropic organizations like Carnegie Institute or Rockefeller Foundation bear any responsibility in this mess?  Why or why not?  Explain.

3. Is it possible that the Human Genome Project could spur similar sentiments or feelings about fetal manipulation in order to create a healthier, more perfect child?  Why or why not?  (see this link for more info on the Project).

(300 words total after writing BOTH of your answers).   Due Sunday, March 10, by midnight.    


1. Black, Edwin. War against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2003. Print.

2. Quinn, Peter. “Race Cleansing In America.” American Heritage Mar. 2003: 35-43. Web. 2012. <>




NPR’s story on North Carolina’s recommendation to provide assistance for the 2,000 survivors of NC’s eugenic’s program.


March 6

Blog #166 – Final Exam – Immigration and Assimilation Theories

As more and more immigrants come to America, it’s worth looking at three different theories as to what immigrants are / were expected to do when they come here.  The majority of this article comes from “Assimilation in America” by Milton M. Gordon, 1961.

The first wave of immigrants came between 1620 – 1775.  This group is predominantly English, with some Scots-Irish, Germans, Swedes, and French and Dutch.  About 20% of the American population was Africans who were forcibly brought here or descendants of enslaved Africans.

The second wave arrived between 1840s and 1850s and were predominantly Irish, German Catholics, Chinese, and Scandinavians.  This group has been called the “old immigrants” when talking about 19th Century immigration.

The third wave of immigration hit American shores between 1870 – 1924.  The earliest group comprised Chinese, French Canadians, Irish, German, Dutch and other northern and western European immigrants.  However, after 1890, the newer arrivals came from southern and eastern Europe: Italians, Poles, Russians, Jews, and Slavs and on the West Coast, the Japanese.  This group has been called the “new immigrants.”  The wave was brought to an abrupt halt by the National Origins Act of 1924.

The latest wave started in the 1960s and hasn’t stopped.  Initially, people came from Asia and Eastern Europe, but for the past twenty years or so, more Latin Americans have arrived.  Unfortunately, like the previous two waves, there also been an uptick in nativist rhetoric, actions, laws, and sentiments in the past 15-20 years.  And like in past waves, immigrants, legal and undocumented, have become scapegoats for the nation’s problems and used as a political tool against their oppponents.  For instance, in this ad for the U.S. Senate, one Republican goes after another for not being tough enough on immigration:

Nativism, immigration, and the Know-Nothing party

Anglo-Conformity (Superiority?)

This theory concerns itself with the adoption of Anglo-American institutions like the English language, culture and customs.  However, negative attitudes towards other ethnic groups have often come hand in hand with this theory, including the belief that Anglo-American ways are the only way to assimilate and are superior to other cultures.  Ben Franklin and other founding fathers expressed “reservations about large-scale immigration from Europe” though they most likely could not have envisioned the role immigration would have on American history.  During the second and third waves, nativist attitudes reared their ugly heads at the Irish and Germans (see cartoon) including a violent anti-Catholic campaign.  Even the cranky John Quincy Adams basically said, “if they don’t like it here, they can go back where they came from.”   When the third wave arrived, Social Darwinism arose as a way of asserting the older groups’ inherent genetic dominance over the eastern and southern European  and Asian groups.  They weren’t English, had strange religions and customs, and were very slow, if not reluctant, to adopt American ways.  There was a pressure-cooker Americanization process undertaken during World War I which ended with hundreds being deported during the “Red Scare” of 1919-20 for un-American ideas like anarchism and socialism.  Also near the end of the 3rd wave, the Klan came back like a dreaded disease and expanded its hatred of anyone not WASP (white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant), and promoted itself as the party of pure Americanism.


Melting Pot

We read about this melding of European people in America in the pre-Revolutionary era in Hector St. John Crevecouer’s Letters from an American Farmer when he said, “Who is this American?  He is either an European, or the descendant of an European, hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country.”    The attitude concerning the new American society was “not a slightly modified English but rather a totally new blend… in which the stocks and folkways of Europe….were mixed in a pot of the emerging nation and fused by the fires of American influence and interaction…”   Ralph Waldo Emerson talked about America in the 1840s as “an asylum for all nations” that would make a new type of individual.   Frederick Jackson Turner broke with the Anglo-conformity mold when he wrote his historic essay in 1893, “The Significance of the Frontier in American History,” saying that American institutions and democracy were not an offshoot of Europe but something uniquely itself.   In 1908, an English-Jewish writer named Israel Zangwill wrote a drama called (oddly enough) The Melting Pot in which a young Jewish immigrant / composer comes to America in order to complete a symphony about his amazing new country where all ethnic groups are united.


Cultural Pluralism

This theory recognizes the concept that when new immigrant groups come to the United States (or wherever, for that matter), the groups tend to clump together in similar groups based on language, culture, and region.  For instance, in the 1840s, the Irish bonded together in Boston as American society initially rejected them.   By the late 1800s, middle class reformers came to the city to help the new arrivals from eastern and southern Europe get acclimated to America.  Women like Jane Addams respected an ethnic group’s language and culture but also taught them the English language.   The children of the new immigrants, because of rapid Americanization, looked down upon their parents who couldn’t speak English and clung to the old ways, thereby alienating each generation from the other.   But Jane Addams, reflected in her biography, Twenty Years in Hull House, that by creating a “Labor Museum” at her settlement house, she showed the younger generation of immigrants what the older group prized (like sewing and weaving).  “The daughters…began to appreciate the fact that their mothers had their own culture too.”


In 1915, Horace Kallen wrote articles on immigration in The Nation which rejected both the melting pot and Anglo-conformity “as models of what was actually transpiring in American life.”   He pointed out how the immigrants have participated in American society by learning English but while still preserving their culture and traditions.  Kallen felt that by allowing immigrants to keep their culture and traditions, we were actually being more democratic than if we had imposed an Anglo-conformist attitude on them.  Kallen came up with the term “cultural pluralism” in later essays in which he rejected the Klan, the Red Scare and other attempts at ultra-Americanization and stated that cultural pluralism was the “cure for these ills.”

Diversity, Pluralism, Multiculturalism!?| National Catholic Register

As you’ve grown up, you’ve probably come to realize that America is a land of immigrants; you may be the first generation of your family born here in the United States.  In this blog response, describe at least two examples of where you’ve seen or experienced at least two of these three immigration theories in action.   Talk to your family and ask older relatives about what kinds of stories have been told about the history of your family.  If applicable, please include your own family’s stories in your response.

Your response should be a minimum of 300 words. Due Sunday, March 10 by midnight. 

February 7

Blog #165 – What does America owe the Indigenous peoples?

As we study America’s legacy with regards to the Indigenous nations, one thing to keep in mind is the long-term legacy that white Americans and European settlers have to own with regards to Native Americans.  In the most widely known policy enacted against the Indigenous nations, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren expelled the Indians, the Five “Civilized Tribes” of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Seminole, Choctaw, and Creek tribes – under the Indian Removal Act.  They were relocated to lands west of the Mississippi River where they would be allowed to roam free, the thinking went.  But that was only one act in this long drama between white Americans (and previously before them, white Europeans) and Indigenous nations.

The Indian Removal Act was passed by Congress in 1830, in order to remove the five tribes from areas of Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi.  Historian and noted Jackson scholar Robert Remini said that the Indians were removed from the eastern United States because they presented a direct threat to the country, having been used as sabotuers by foreign invaders in the past three wars that America had fought (French and Indian War, the Revolution, and the War of 1812).  Remini saw this act as improving the homeland security of the nation.  Other historians see the act within the context of the grab for new farm land in the cotton-growing frenzy that gripped the nation – the Indians were moved because the land they lived on was coveted by white farmers so that they could add to the cotton kingdom.  This act was unconstitutional because the Indians were seen as “domestic dependent nations” and NOT sovereign independent nations as affirmed by the Supreme Court in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia.  Historian H.W. Brands states that President Jackson felt that this removal policy was “humane” and saved the Indians from annihiation from the crushing forces of white encroachment.

From there, however, Manifest Destiny charged ahead, damn the torpedoes, so to speak, and the Indians were in the way again.  Whether it be farm land, gold and silver mines, railroads, or the destruction of the buffalo, Native Americans became an easy target for white Americans moving westward.  The tribes were pushed aside and put onto reservations, or as the speaker in the TED talk below, Aaron Huey, calls them, “prisoner of war camps”.  Some Indians like Red Cloud, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse, just to name a few, fought back and succeeded at slowing down the demographic flood of white settlers.  A 1911 ad offering &quot;allotted Indian land&quot; for sale

For most American history books, we see that they talk about the Indians almost always when they are being pushed off of their land by Europeans (King Philip’s War, Powhatan War, Seminole War, Indian Removal Act) or when they fight back (Dakota War, Battle of Little Bighorn, Red Cloud’s War) or after being indiscriminately massacred (Sand Creek and Wounded Knee Massacres).  Few cover the decimation of disaeases that faced the Native Americans when the Europeans first arrived.  Even fewer touch on 20th Century issues and laws regarding education, reservation (and sale of Indian land), tribal recognition, citizenship or lack thereof, The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, Termination policy in the 1950s or other Indian policies like the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.  Our textbooks might talk about AIM or the standoff at Wounded Knee in 1973, but just as an inclusion of many minority groups in the chapter on the late 1960s / early 1970s. There might even be something about the seizure of Alcatraz Island by Native Americans. But rarely anything is heard after that.  Just within the past ten years does it seem that historians are acknowledging the tragedies of the Indian boarding schools.


In the following disturbing and moving video, photographer Aaron Huey lists the many things done (in the name of America) to the Lakota Sioux tribe.  He juxtaposes the litany of broken treaties and promises and horrific things with his own photos of the Lakota tribe at Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Aaron Huey’s wish is that the American government honor the treaties and give back the Black Hills.  To atone for America’s sins, to use such a phrase, can anything truly be done?  Where, if anywhere, should Americans start to make up for what has been done to the Indigenous nations?   Is it right that we should speak in such manner as atoning for sins or asking for forgiveness?  Or do you feel that you have nothing to ask forgiveness for since these things had been done before you were born?  What responsibility does America have to the Indigenous nations?

One major thing to consider is that though we may not have been personally responsible for oppressing the Native Americans, we benefit from the results of past policies of our government towards Native Americans (and even from past colonial practices).

Should we replace Columbus Day with Indigineous Peoples’ Day?

Should we push Congress to rescind the Medals of Honor distributed to the 7th Cavalry handed out after the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890?

Should reservations be abolished? Or should those that exist still remain yet receive generous help?

Should the remaining pro sports teams like the Kansas City Chiefs or Atlanta Braves be forced to take new mascot names (remember that after refusing to do so for decades and claiming that their names and mascots honored Indigenous peoples, the Washington football team and the Cleveland baseball team changed their names and mascots)?

What can we learn from Canada and the way they have treated and honored their Indigenous peoples?

Should Native Americans be given back their religious ceremonial artifacts, tens of thousands of which sit in museums, some on display, others locked in vaults?

In finishing up the research for this blog (including reading chapters of the book, “All the Real Indians Died Off”: And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz) I found that Congress passed, as part of an appropriations bill, a resolution called the Native American Apology Resolution in 2009.  Introduced by Republican senator from Kansas, Sam Brownback, he said the reason he did this was “to officially apologize for the past ill-conceived policies by the US Government toward the Native Peoples of this land and re-affirm our commitment toward healing our nation’s wounds and working toward establishing better relationships rooted in reconciliation.”


The Apology Resolution states that the United States, “apologizes on behalf of the people of the United States to all Native Peoples for the many instances of violence, maltreatment, and neglect inflicted on Native Peoples by citizens of the United States.”

The Apology Resolution also “urges the President to acknowledge the wrongs of the United States against Indian tribes in the history of the United States in order to bring healing to this land.”

The Apology Resolution comes with a disclaimer that nothing in the Resolution authorizes or supports any legal claims against the United States and that the Resolution does not settle any claims against the United States.

The Apology Resolution does not include the lengthy Preamble that was part of S.J Res. 14 introduced earlier this year by Senator Brownback.  The Preamble recites the history of U.S. – tribal relations including the assistance provided to the settlers by Native Americans, the killing of Indian women and children, the Trail of Tears, the Long Walk, the Sand Creek Massacre, and Wounded Knee, the theft of tribal lands and resources, the breaking of treaties, and the removal of Indian children to boarding schools.

  1. Describe your reactions to the Ted Talk – positive, negative, somewhere in between – and explain why;
  2. After reading and discussing the 1862 Dakota War, how does knowledge of Lincoln’s actions during this time complicate his legacy?  (Keep in mind, it is his face – along with Washington, Jefferson, and Teddy Roosevelt – on Mt. Rushmore in the holy land for the Lakota Sioux people).
  3. Discuss your thoughts / concerns about how to acknowledge the debt America owes the Indigenous nations and why.

Total 400 words minimum for all 3 answers.  Due Monday, February 12 by class.  

Extended quotes come from the blog:

January 29

Blog #164 – Reconstruction Historiography

As a refresher on historiography, in essence, it’s the history of the history of a topic or time period.  Historiography analyzes how history has been written in the past and how different interpretations of events.  For instance, historians in the 1850s would look at the events of the American Revolution differently than historians in the 1950s and differently than those living in 2024.  Each historian is shaped by their own biases and time period – for instance, if a historian wrote during a time period where there was economic turmoil and depression, those current events might likely shape how that historian views older events.  Also, the study of American history before the 1950s had been predominantly a white male enterprise which only focused primarily on political, economic, and diplomatic topics, but since the 1950s and the Civil Rights Movement, more and more female historians and historians of color entered the field who showed a light on peoples’ stories that hadn’t been told before by white male historians.  They also expanded the field of history to include social, cultural, and women’s histories.  Here is a quote on the importance of historiography:

“Historiography allows us to understand the wide range of historical interpretations and how differing perspectives have shaped the representations of historical fact. It helps us adopt a more critical lens in understanding history as relative, as a subject that has been manipulated by those telling it and reclaimed by those who have participated in it. It encourages to seek out the biases in historical accounts and understand the subjective nature of historical writing.” (citation).

So, the period of Reconstruction is one that had been dominated by a racist view of the leading historians of the time period until the 1950s.  Essentially, it was written from a white Southerner point of view, and Reconstruction was seen as a tragic era where Southern whites were the victims of incompetent Blacks and corrupt white Republicans.  Early Black historians like William Wells Brown and George Washington Williams writing in the 1870s and 1880s saw the period as tragic because the freedmen had been elevated beyond their previous status without proper preparation: “The government gave him [the freedmen] the statute-book when he ought to have had the spelling book; placed him in the Legislature when he ought to have been in the school-house.” (Williams).  They thought that the establishment of public schools in the South was one of the only good things to come out of Reconstruction.Opinion | The Lost Promise of Reconstruction - The New York Times

One fictional work that influenced the upcoming Dunning School of Reconstruction (see video below) was the popular novel, The Clansman, by Thomas Dixon in 1905.  It was an “unabashed celebration of the Ku Klux Klan” that saved the South from Radical Republicans’ attempt to “Africanize” the South.  This novel served as the basis for the hugely popular film, Birth of a Nation, released in 1915 to wide acclaim and massive audiences.

In the old school or William Dunning interpretation, Reconstruction was a miserable failure that blundered in giving freedmen their rights (which they weren’t ready for for a variety of reasons, but usually racist theories about intelligence and human nature), but Andrew Johnson and the Klan were portrayed as the heroes of the era because they tried to ease the country back together painlessly (Johnson) and pushed for restoration of home rule (Klan).   Reconstruction governments were filled with scalawags and carpetbaggers who corrupted the states and raised taxes.  The true victims here during this period were Southern whites.  In this old school, we see a major critique of the federal government’s expansion and exercise of federal power over the states.  Behind much of this interpretation is the opinion that was popular at the turn of the 20th Century that white people of Anglo-Saxon (English) or Northern European descent were superior to the rest of the world.  We see a lot of this nonsense in the previously mentioned silent blockbuster from 1915, Birth of a Nation and the epic Gone With the Wind in 1939.  Part of the reason that this Dunning School of Reconstruction had such a lasting impact was that there was a huge push towards reconciliation in the late 19th Century, and William Dunning’s book on Reconstruction was full of heavily researched details which set the standard for Reconstruction histories going forward.

In the 20th Century, Black historians like W.E.B. DuBois depicted Reconstruction as a tragedy because of its failure to secure civil rights for African Americans throughout the country in his 1935 book, Black Reconstruction (link to the audio book on YouTube here).  While he stated that there were minor successes like education for Black Americans, he lamented the violence that racist whites inflicted upon Black Americans – lynching had reached peak numbers in the 1890s, and white society attributed this to inherent Black criminality (but we all know the real story).

Later on in the mid to late 20th Century, under some of the new interpretations, especially the Progressive and Neo-Progressive / New Left historians in the 20th Century, the Dunning interpretation is flipped on its head.  Andrew Johnson was a racist who stood in the way of the idealist Radical Republicans who wanted to give freedmen their full and equal rights.  The Klan was not the protector of the South but a haphazard terrorist organization that kept blacks from voting and intimidated both whites and blacks in the South.  And the Southern state governments, Republican by nature, may or may not have helped out the freedmen.  One thing is certain: the governments, from the local (Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall) and state all the way up to the federal level (see the Grant administration) were corrupt.  Moral standards were low during this time period and many people (as we’ll see in one of our next units) are in it to make a quick million or two.  Here is an extended interview with historian Eric Foner on Reconstruction who wrote the most influential book on Reconstruction in the past 40 years (also one of my favorite living historians).

Please watch the following Crash Course on Black American history to use as additional evidence for your opinions on Reconstruction:

Your job: Briefly discuss the importance of historiography, and explain which historians’ interpretation of Reconstruction you either agree or disagree with the most and why.  Use your notes, readings of primary sources and the textbook, articles and videos (Amend, episode 2 among others) to back up your thoughts on this topic.

Due Monday night, January 29th, by midnight.  Your response should be a minimum of 350 words.