What Readings Do I Assign in My United States History Survey Course (to 1865)?


We read The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

A reader, Stephen Bauer, recently asked me via Twitter  (@johnfea1) what readings I assign in my United States history survey course.  This course is a staple of my teaching load at Messiah College.  I teach it once a year.  (In 2016-22017 I will be teaching it in the Spring semester).

Here is what the students read:

Concise edition of James Oakes, et. al, Of the People: A History of the United States, Vol. 1

John Fea, “The Power to Transform: Thinking Historically About the Past,” unpublished essay, much of which made its way in my Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past

James Merrell, “The Indians’ New World: The Catawba Experience,” William & Mary Quarterly 41 (October 1984), 538-565.

Trial Transcript of Anne Hutchinson, 1637

Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, 1791

Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

Declaration of Independence, 1776

United States Constitution, 1787

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, A Midwife’s Tale (Documentary video)

William Lloyd Garrison, The Liberator, 1830s (excerpts)

Thomas Dew, The Pro-Slavery Argument, 1852 (excerpts)

George Fitzhugh, Cannibals All! Or Slaves Without Masters, 1857 (excerpts)

Frederick Douglass, Narrative, 1845

Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, 1865

Of course these readings are supplemented with my lectures (twice a week) and discussion sections (one a week) with me and the excellent adjunct instructors who work with me in the class.  (Shout out to Cathay Snyder!).

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