US Society: Development of the U.S. and Its People (USSO 10100)
Evan Friss (
Room: NA/4129
Office Hours: Fridays, 11:30-12:30


This course will serve as an introduction to the history of the United States from the colonial period until the late twentieth century. With such a vast scope we will be forced to proceed selectively across the historical timeline. Nonetheless, you can expect to investigate fundamental questions related to political, social, cultural, and economic history. Although the textbook will form the core of the reading, you will also be required to complete regular supplementary reading, which will often include primary sources. Developing the skills to evaluate and analyze primary materials serves as only one of our chief objectives. Additionally, you should demonstrate an ability to synthesize secondary sources and to construct your own historical arguments (both written and oral). By the end of the semester we should all share a familiarity with the central themes in American History and, more importantly, have the skills to think critically about history and the world in which we live.


Over the course of the semester you will complete three papers (5 pages each), one oral presentation, and a final exam. Additionally, short quizzes (based on the reading for that day) will be given regularly and you will also be expected to participate in class. Grades will be determined according to the following scale:

Quizzes and Participation (20%)
Three Papers (45%)
Oral Presentations (15%)
Final Exam (20%)

Required Texts:

Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty
Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Time Obrien, The Things they Carried


August 26: Introduction

September 2: The New World & Colonial Expansion
Foner, Chapters 1-3

September 9: Life in the Empire, Slave and Free & the Revolution
Foner, Chapters 4-5
1st half of Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

September 16: The Constitution & A Jeffersonian Revolution?
Foner, Chapter 6-8
2nd half of Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
The Constitution

September 23: Market Revolution & Jacksonian Democracy
Foner, Chapters 9-10
Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Chapters I-V

September 30: No Class

October 4: Slavery & The Reform Impulse (According to CCNY, today is a Friday)
Foner, Chapters 11-12
Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Chapters VI-XI

October 7: No Class

October 14: An Impending Crisis & The Civil War
Foner, Chapters 13-14
Lincoln’s Cooper Union Speech
Emancipation Proclamation

October 21: Reconstruction & the Gilded Age
Foner, Chapters 15-16
Jacob Riis Photographs

October 28: Imperialism & the Progressive Era
Foner, Chapters 17-18

November 4: World War I & the 1920s
Foner, Chapters 19-20

November 11: The Great Depression and the New Deal & World War II
Foner, Chapters 21-22
Before class listen to one of FDR’s Fireside Chats and be prepared to discuss it.

Read this translation of a leaflet dropped on the Japanese on August 6, 1945. Then, imagine you were in charge of the war effort. What would you say to Japanese citizens?

Online Assignment #11: Due April 27

November 18: Film, Culture & The Cold War
Film Shown in Class
O’Brien, The Things They Carried, 1-136.
Foner, Chapter 23
“Duck and Cover” Video

December 2: 1950s, Korea, and Vietnam
Foner, Chapters 24
O’Brien, The Things They Carried, 137-273

December 9: The 1960s, the Crisis of Authority, & the Triumph of Conservatism
Foner, Chapters 25-26

Final Exam: TBA

Department-Wide Expectations

1. Students are expected to arrive prepared and on time. According to College rules, any student who misses four meetings without permission will fail the course.

2. Deadlines will be strictly enforced. Late papers will be penalized one grade (i.e., from B+ to B) for every day the paper is late.

3. Students must take a final examination for this class. Examinations are scheduled by the Registrar; exam dates are posted on the college website before the semester begins. You should indicate the date and time of your final exam on your syllabus. Students may reschedule an exam ONLY if they have more than two examinations on the same day. Please make travel plans accordingly.

4. There will be no incompletes granted in this class. All work must be completed by the end of the semester.

5. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. For definitions and examples,see the CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity (

Course learning outcomes

Students will develop a strong grasp of the major issues, themes, and debates relating to the history of U.S. history.

Students will demonstrate proficiency in the analysis, evaluation and synthesis of primary and secondary sources through short content-based tests as well as three essays.

Oral and written communication skills (CS) –You will have had multiple experiences in communicating ideas in writing and speaking. You will complete assignments totaling at least 3500 words of writing.

Critical analysis (CA) –You will have had multiple experiences in critically and constructively analyzing information in different areas of study.

Information literacy (IL) –You will have had multiple experiences in finding information in the library, on the Internet, and in other places and in evaluating the reliability of this information.