HIST 225: U.S. History
Fall 2017: TuTh 8:00-9:15 (Lecture)
Harrison Hall 1261

Prof. Evan Friss
Email: frissej@jmu.edu
Office Hours: Tues. 10:30-11:00, 2:00-4:30 [Jackson 220]

T.A.: Joshua Goodall
Email: goodaljd@dukes.jmu.edu
Office Hours:Wed. 10:00-12:00 [Roop G18]

Course Description and Objectives:

This course will serve as an introduction to the history of the United States from the colonial period until today. With such a vast scope, we will be forced to proceed selectively across the historical timeline. Nonetheless, by the end of the semester we should all share a familiarity with the central political, social, cultural, and economic themes in American history and, most importantly, have developed the skills to think critically about the past, the value of history, and the world in which we live.

Additionally, as “An American Experience” course in JMU’s General Education Program (Cluster 4), students will be able to identify, conceptualize and evaluate:

  • Social and political processes and structures using quantitative and qualitative data
  • Key primary sources relating to American history, political institutions and society
  • The nature and development of the intellectual concepts that structure American political activity
  • The history and operation of American democratic institutions
  • The history and development of American society and culture
  • The history and development of American involvement in world affairs


The American Yawp (a free online textbook)

Grading and Assignments:

Op-Ed (5%)
General Participation (19%)
Quizzes (19%)
Primary Source Analysis (19%)
Midterm Exam (19%)
Final Exam (19%)

Grades: (A) means genuinely outstanding, mastery of the subject, near flawless exposition, and incisive interpretation; (B) means well above average achievements in mastery of the subject, exposition, and interpretation throughout the course; (C) means comprehension of the basic concepts, competent exposition, and interpretation; (D) means unsatisfactory but still barely passing; (F) means failure.

  • Exams and Quizzes: The exams will consist primarily of essays. The final exam is not cumulative. Regular (unannounced) quizzes will be given throughout the semester.
  • Discussion Section:  Students are responsible for having read all of the assigned readings for a given week prior to their discussion section. You are expected to participate every week and should bring a copy of the assigned readings to class.
  • Writing Assignments: Over the course of the semester, you will complete two papers:

1) “Why History” Op-Ed:  In 400 words, write an article for a newspaper of your choice in which you argue for or against public colleges and universities requiring students to take at least one history class. You are encouraged to submit the essay for publication. The paper should be submitted via Canvas. Due: Sep. 5

2) Primary Source Analysis: Select one of the documents we’ve examined in class and find another primary source (one that is not on the syllabus) that relates to the same theme. Write a 1250-word paper in which you analyze the two sources in terms of how they provide insight into a particular era/theme of US History. You’ll want to consider the context in which the sources were created; differences between the sources in terms of perspective, style, and content; and most importantly, how these works inform our understanding of the period in which they were created.  Your analysis should draw from course materials (readings, lectures, etc.), but it is not necessary to conduct any outside research. As always you should use footnotes to cite sources (in whatever style you’re comfortable with). The paper should be submitted via Canvas. Due: Oct. 5


Plagiarism, or any other forms of academic dishonesty, will result in an automatic “F” grade for this course.  For more information on course policies regarding registration dates, attendance, accommodations, etc. visit:  http://www.jmu.edu/history/syllabus.shtml


Aug. 29 & Sept. 1 | Introduction to the Course, History, and The New World
Journal of Christopher Columbus
Thomas Morton’s Description of the Indians in New England
The American Yawp, Chapters 1-2 (Recommended)

Sept. 5 & 7 | Colonial America
Paper #1 Due Sep. 5
The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano
John Winthrop, “A Model of Christian Charity”
Narratives of Early Carolina
The American Yawp, Chapters 3-4 (Recommended)

Sept. 12 & 14 | The Revolution  
Thomas Paine, Common Sense
Declaration of Independence
Letters between John and Abigail Adams
The American YawpChapter 5 (Recommended)

Sept. 19 & 21 | The New Nation
James Madison, The Federalist Papers, #10
James Madison, The Federalist Papers, #54
The Constitution
George Washington’s Farewell Address
The American YawpChapters 6-7 (Recommended)

Sept. 26 & 28 | The Market
Lydia Child, The American Frugal Housewife
Rules for Girls at the Lowell Mills
William Alcott, The Young Man’s Guide
Alexis de Toqueville, “How Americans Understand the Equality of the Sexes”
The American YawpChapter 8 (Recommended)

Oct. 3 & 5 | Democracy and Slavery
David Walker’s Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World
George Fitzhugh, “The Universal Law of Slavery”
Staunton Spectator, “Freedom and Slavery”
William Lloyd Garrison Speech
Frances Kemble Letter
The American YawpChapters 9-11 (Recommended)
Paper #2 Due Oct. 5

Oct. 10 & 12 | The Impending Crisis and The Civil War  (No lecture on Oct. 12)
Lincoln’s Cooper Union Address
Emancipation Proclamation
Lincoln’s 1st and 2nd Inaugurals
The American YawpChapters 12-14 (Recommended)

Oct. 17 & 19 | Reconstruction and the Late 19th Century 
MIDTERM EXAM on Oct. 17 [No Discussion Sections This Week]
Mississippi Black Code, 1865
Grover Cleveland’s Veto of the Texas Seed Bill
Rudyard Kipling, The White Man’s Burden
The American YawpChapters 15-19 (Recommended)

Oct. 24 & 26 | Progressivism and World War I
Andrew Carnegie, “Wealth”
Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives
Thorstein Veblen, “Conspicuous Consumption”
IWW Constitution (Preamble)
Upton Sinclair, The Jungle
The American YawpChapters 20-21 (Recommended)

Oct. 31 & Nov. 2 | The 1920s, The Great Depression, and The New Deal

Huey Long, “Share Our Wealth”
Women on the Breadlines
FDR’s First Fireside Chat (Audio)
The American YawpChapters 22-23 (Recommended)

Nov. 7 & 9 | World War II and the Emergence of the Cold War
Truman on Dropping the Bomb
Studs Terkel, The Good War: An Oral History of World War II
Joseph McCarthy, “Enemies from Within” Speech

The American YawpChapters 24-25 (Recommended)

Nov. 14 & 16 | The Suburbs & Mid-Century Culture
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “I am Waiting”
Jackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), 1950
Malvina Reynolds, “Little Boxes”
“Donna Reed” Season 2, Episode 19
The American YawpChapters 26-27 (Recommended)

Thanksgiving Break

Nov. 28 & 30 | Counterculture and Conservatism
Port Huron Statement (Introduction)
Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1-13
Black Panthers Ten Point Program
Tom Wolfe, “The ‘Me’ Decade and the Third Great Awakening”
Jerry Falwell, Listen America
Gloria Steinem, Equal Rights Amendment Congressional Testimony
The American YawpChapters 28-29 (Recommended)

Dec. 5 & 7 | The Twenty-First Century
Bring to discussion section a primary source that reflects an important theme of current society that you think will one day be historically significant.
The American YawpChapter 30 (Recommended)

FINAL EXAM: Saturday, Dec. 9, 8:00 in Harrison 1261