Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Pro-Segregation Riots Draw Federal Troops: Fifty Years Ago Today in Little Rock

Fifty years ago today in Little Rock, Arkansas, nine African-American teenagers desegregated Central High School. Like many young black people in the former Confederate states, their civil disobedience was met by police, soldiers, and crowds of angry white people who spit at them, called them names and threw garbage on their clothes. You can read the story of today's commemoration in Little Rock here, and watch documentary footage of the original event above.

I know you are busy writing a paper but: what do you think it is like to choose to be part of a critical historic event? How would you find the courage to fight for something you believed in as an American citizen, even though you might be harmed? What matters that much? What stops people from demanding their rights?

Curiously, on this anniversary of a moment where young citizens fought for democracy in the United States, Burmese people are marching in the streets, demonstrating for a democratic society, and led by Burmese monks. The last time protests happened on this in Myanmar (Burma), it is estimated that thousands were imprisoned and killed by the government. What do you think of that?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Bias in History

Hey everyone,
I realized that I never gave you my email address. It's rmclaren@wesleyan.edu, so if you have any questions for me, dont hesitate to shoot me an email. Also, I was thinking about the paper topics and found this website.


Clearly this is addressing paper topic number 3, and it takes a pretty clear point of view in terms of bias and passing judgement. It also raises some interesting questions about history and what is legitimate. Is history best study from within or must we restrict ourselves to the periphery? Both of these approaches can be problematic in different ways, and the authors we have read can be equally as problematic. Just some food for thought. Best of luck,

Monday, September 17, 2007


Hey all,
My name is Ryan, and along with Steph I will be the writing tutor for Professor Potter's class. I am a senior American Studies major. Steph explained much of what we do in her blog, but just to reiterate we have many options for our office hours. We can meet with you one on one and go over the readings, your papers, etc. Also hopefully we will have the opportunity to do a some group writing exercises. My office hours will be Tuesday from 8-10pm in the bottom floor of the Usdan. See you all in class.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Some Documents You Might Like

Some of you mentioned after the last class that you would be interested in reading Frederick Jackson Turner's classic essay, "The Significance of the Frontier in American History;" if so, click here for an online reprint, courtesy o fthe University of Virginia. If you are really interested in Turner, they have actually provided the entire collection of essays for your delectation. The gentleman pictured here is, of course, Turner himself.

I also thought you might be interested in this article, by Frederick Wells Williams published in 1900 in the American Historical Review. It brings together two of our themes from the first several classes: Chinese immigration and empire, by arguing that American policy must be changed to encourage Chinese immigration to the new Pacific territories because the need for labor will be so great. It also shows that professional historians imagined that they had something important to contribute to the issues of their day, and were determined to use their intellectual abilities to participate as citizens.

Finally, here is a very famous essay by Theodore Roosevelt, originally delivered to the Hamilton Club, a civic reform organization in Chicago, on April 10, 1899, in which he identified the health of the nation with the health and vigor of the American nuclear family: click here. It is called "The Strenuous Life," and it is one of the best examples of what historians mean when they say Progressive reformers spoke in "gendered" language. But it should also cause you to remember that the current conservative view that grounds the future of the nation in the future of the stable, reproductive nuclear family has a long history.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

TA information

Hey guys,

My name is Stephanie. I’m a senior U.S. history major and will serve as one of the writing fellows for this course along with Ryan. I’d just like to take a minute to welcome you to 20th century United States History. Because of the large class size we understand that it can be intimidating to articulate your opinions or pose questions in front of everyone. Believe me, we know from experience- when we had Professor Potter for class we barely spoke two words. Thus, for any of you that would like to meet as a group for informal sessions, I will be holding office hours on Thursday nights from 9-11 pm in the lobby of the Usdan Center. The purposes of these sessions will vary depending on the needs of the individuals that show up- sometimes we’ll be discussing the main themes of the readings, critiquing essays, discussing effective note taking strategies or whatever else you guys have questions about. Please don’t hesitate to contact either Ryan or myself if you ever have any questions or concerns. I look forward to meeting and working with all of you…good luck!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Immigration and the Debate Over American Empire

This is a painting by Jack Gance that illustrates the romance of continental empire that was inspired by John L. O'Sullivan's articles about Manifest Destiny. Note that the "spirit of America" is a white woman floating above a group of (mostly) men marching westward as individuals or small families. (Thanks to Rebecca on my east-west mixup: civilization theoretically marched from east to west, not hte other way around.) The painting, however, was completed in the mid-1870's, as the government had made it increasingly possible to settle the west through investment in railroads, telegraph, and mail delivery, as well as opportunities to buy land for a few dollars an acre.

A Grand Army of the Republic Civil war memorial in Washington, D.C. These, and Confederate memorials to the war dead, were a continual reminder that participation in the war, and army service, was a sign and a privilege of political citizenship.

This is a portrait of the Rough Rider charge up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish-American War by Frederic Remington, who traveled with the Rough Riders during their campaign. Teddy Roosevelt, who would be elected vice president a year after hte portrait was completed, is at upper left. Remington was a Yale graduate who, despite having never really visited the west, was famous for illustrations sold to national magazines that accompanied romantic tales of the western frontier. Although there were African-American and Native American soldiers who played important roles in this famous battle, they are not depicted here. In fact, Roosevelt wrote so inaccurately about black "cowardice" during the battle, that he had to publicly apologize to black politicians and ministers in the north where African-Americans, who were registered Republican, voted in increasing numbers from the 1890's onward.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Welcome to the History Blogosphere

If you have made it this far, welcome. The question is, with all you have to do, why am I suggesting that you blog as a component of History 240/AMST 230?

As I said on the syllabus and again in class, it started because I wanted a place where I can upload videos from You Tube. I am absolutely serious about this. You Tube is a treasure trove of visual evidence: political speeches, campaign commercials, movie clips and satire that will become part of this course as I -- and I hope you -- locate it and upload it. I will also add pictures of notable people, links to archives, and news articles that make sense for you to have access to. Again, I hope you will send me things, or upload them yourselves as we figure out whether this is going to fly. We won't have time to do everything in class, or talk about everything, but that doesn't mean you can't have access to anything you want and make materials that speak specifically to you part of your work in this class.

To the right, you will also see a short list of blogs by historians, several of which devote themselves to keeping people updated on what is happening in a given field of American history. History News Network is sponsored by George Mason University and has a variety of blogs attached to it. It also has a lot of news -- of archives, and sometimes gritty, down and dirty gossip about historians and the world of professional history. If you are thinking you might want to be a historian, this is a good blog to keep up on to find out what we are really like.

But what I now also hope will happen with this blog is that you will write history -- and about history -- in any way you please, and that you will do it for yourselves and for each other. One of the most provocative comments I have gotten on my other blog was from a Wesleyan student who said she had written over 100 papers in college, and she enjoyed writing none of them. I will do my best to assign good writing topics, but I think we need at least one place where you and I can just do history because we lilke it, write what we want to write, and write because we enjoy it.

And it is by writing the way we want to that we will, in the end, become better writers and find out what kind of intellectuals we are.

So welcome to the History 240 blog!