The 1960s

Course Description:

Hippies. Freedom Summer. Cuban Missile Crisis. The Kennedys. Urban riots. Tie dye. Vietnam. MLK Jr. War on Poverty. Space Race. Sound of Music. Woodstock. Beehives. Black Power. LBJ. Student Democratic Society. Berkeley Free Speech Movement. Dr. Strangelove. Bay of Pigs. Cultural Revolution. Goldwater. Wilderness Act. Richard Nixon. Medgar Evers. American Nazi Party. Stonewall. The Pill. LSD. Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Mini-skirts.

The 1960s in America was a time of change. The nation debated what it would become socially, culturally, politically and economically. In the process, both liberalism and conservatism gained new followers, and the rhetoric these individuals honed during this decade continue to shape the American landscape today.

In this class, we will move beyond a rote memorization of names, dates and stories. We’ll discuss how to analyze information by evaluating what we hear and read and then using the information to draw conclusions. We will become a learning community. To do this, we’ll discuss how to communicate your ideas clearly through both the written and spoken word, and then we’ll learn to engage one another in thoughtful, respectful ways.

History is more than a timeline, though the order in which events occurred help to structure it. It is more than the biographies of presidents and generals, and while history is often presented as a story, it is more than a simple narrative of cause and effect or change over time. At their best, historical narratives help us step outside of our contemporary reality by showing us how and why we as a society have evolved as we have. When our present is the result of choices rather than kismet, we can imagine a new future.

Required Readings:

  • Modern American Lives:
    Browne, Blaine T., and Robert C. Cottrell. Modern American Lives: Individuals and Issues in American History Since 1945. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, Inc., 2007.
  • America in the Sixties:
    Greene, John Robert. America in the Sixties, America in the Twentieth Century. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2010.
  • America’s Uncivil Wars:
    Lytle, Mark Hamilton. America’s Uncivil Wars: The Sixties Era from Elvis to the Fall of Richard Nixon. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press, 2006.We will also use a handful of articles that area also available online through JStor, a database you can access through the library.

    Course Structure:

    Though there will be some lectures, this class will be heavily discussion based. Though I have been a student of history for more years than you (probably) have been, I value your insights and the perspective that each of you will bring to the material. As a result, most of our class time will be devoted to discussions of the materials we have read (this along with the reading schedule you will need to keep will also help prepare you should you choose to go to graduate school). So that you can participate in the conversations, please come to class having read the materials. Some weeks, this may be a challenge. Plan ahead. I do not have an attendance policy, but participation is 30% of your grade. You cannot participate if you are not in class.

    There will be three engagement papers due. Each of these papers should be four to five pages long. I will not ask you a specific question for them. They are your opportunity to engage with the questions of the class and the readings you have done for the class. For each engagement paper, choose one of the course’s recurring themes and put the readings and primary documents into dialogue. These are not journal entries: be sure that each paper you turn in makes an argument and then cites evidence from the readings completed in the course thus far to support your point. Remember that these are your opportunity to demonstrate that you have done the readings. Be sure to include them in your papers.

    For the final project, select one aspect of life in America in the 1960s and create a final project exploring that topic. Possibilities include a research paper (eight to ten pages in length), a proposal for a museum exhibit, a treatment for a historically accurate movie based on the topic you chose, etc. For the final project, you may rely heavily on your readings and class notes, but you will probably find that you need additional information to create a well-informed paper. Follow proper citation guidelines.


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