THE HISTORY CLUB

A place for history teachers, students and enthusiasts

Post World War II American History Reading Group

Starting June 2017

Please Read: Suggestions on how to Meaningfully and Constructively Participate in our History Reading Groups

After the books above we will select the next books we read from the list below. Feel free to recommend a book from the list below the form or another book you have read.

Our Current Book and Chapter

Our Reading Schedule by Week and Chapter Title For The Current Book

  1. Introduction and Prologue

    Thought Questions
    - What are the main themes does the author introduce?
    - How does the author use the term "empire"?
    - In what ways was this a period of change? and a period of continuity?

    American Literature Supplemental Reading
    - Begin reading "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac
  2. Chapter 1: Power and Politics

    Thought Questions
    - What and How did Americans debate the proper role of government in a more global society?
    - What and How did Americans debate the place of individual rights in a more integrated and mobile society?
    - How was this a time of change in the balance of labor, business and consumer interests?
    - How did industrialization, urbanization and World War II effect the relationship between the Federal Government and Americans?

    (Keep these questions in mind as you read the remainder of the book)

    Primary Sources
    The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (Wagner Act)
    The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938

    Articles
    Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue reading "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac
  3. Chapter 2: Cold War

    Thought Questions
    - In comparison with the traditional European great powers what ways was the United States in a different international position at the end of World War II?
    - How and why did the United States change its orientation towards the world after the war?
    - In what ways did the United States use economic development to create stability at home and abroad?
    - What international and domestic conditions existed that limited the effectiveness of American led post war international reforms?
    - How was American Internationalism expressed differently in Europe, Japan and the developing world?
    - How was the new "American Internationalism" superficially different from "European Imperialism" and how did these differences shape misconceptions about post war American Imperialism?
    - How did the post war American national security establishment grow out of World War II?
    - What is the concept of "Country Club Racism" and how did it effect post war American foreign policy?
    - What international organizations were formed after World War II and how did their formation reflect American military and economic power?
    - In what ways did the period after the end of World War II reflect the period after the end of World War I? What were the most significant differences? How did the Atlantic Charter reflect Wilson's Fourteen Points?
    - What idea was the metaphor "Iron Curtain" intended to convey?
    - How did misconceptions in the United States and Soviet Union about each other contribute to the development of the Cold War?
    - What was the Potsdam Declaration and how was it related to the beginning of the Cold War?
    - Describe the development of the Western and Eastern division of Europe in the early Cold War

    Primary Sources
    Truman Doctrine - 1947
    The American Century by Henry Luce
    Churchill's The Sinews of Peace (Iron Curtain) Speech - Transcript and Audio
    Potsdam Declaration

    Articles
    Henry Luce and 20th Century U.S. Internationalism
    Henry R. Luce and the Rise of the American News Media
    Brief Biography of Robert Taft
    Summary of the Potsdam Conference
    Brief Biography of Bernard Baruch
    The Uncommon Man: The strange life of Henry Wallace, the New Deal visionary
    Brief Biography of James Byrnes (1882-1972)
    Churchill and the Great Republic


    Optional Supplemental Viewing
    Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Prologue: Architects of the American Century in The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Finish reading "On the Road" by Jack Kerouac
  4. Chapter 3: Stalemate in Washington

    Thought Questions
    - How did the Democratic Party coalition fracture after World War II?
    - Describe how the civil rights movement effected the immediate post war period
    - How did the issue of civil rights effect the United States and it's struggle with communism?
    - What were the recommendation of Truman's civil rights commission?
    - How did the Republican Party coalition fracture after World War II?
    - Who were the "Dixiecrats" or States' Rights Democratics?
    - How did the Truman administration build on the New Deal?

    Primary Sources
    A Summary Evaluation of the Taft-Hartley Act (1958) - Yale University
    Audio with transcript: June 20, 1947: On the Veto of the Taft-Hartley Bill
    Audio with transcript: January 20, 1949: Truman Inaugural Address
    Audio: Truman Address To The NAACP
    1948 Democratic Party Platform
    1948 Republican Party Platform
    1948 Platform of the States Rights Democratic Party

    Articles
    Biography of Harry S. Truman - The Miller Center University of Virginia
    Biography of Harry S. Truman - The White House
    1947 Taft-Hartley Substantive Provisions
    The Truman White House Renovation
    Brief Biography of Adlai Stevenson
    Henry Wallace - The Uncommon Man (The New Yorker)
    Brief Biography of Thomas Dewey
    Brief Biography of Robert A. Taft

    Links
    Truman Presidential Library

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 1 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Begin Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  5. Chapter 4: National Security State Nation

    Thought Questions
    - How did the Korean War effect the United States domestic and international policy?
    - How did the national security state and the early Cold War effect the cultural and social life of Americans?
    - How many Americans were killed in the Korean War?
    - How many Americans were wounded in the Korean War?
    - How many Koreans were killed in the Korean War?
    - How many Koreans were wounded in the Korean War?
    - How did decolonialism effect the international situation and how did Korea develop into North and South?
    - How did misunderstanding between the United States, China and the Soviet Union effect the Korean War?
    - How did the Korean War unfold and resolve into stalemate?
    - In what ways did the Korean War effect the balance of power between Congress and the President in the area of foreign and military affairs?
    - How did the Korean War effect post war Japan and Germany?
    - In what ways did the Cold War effect science, education and the economy in the United States?
    - How did the anti-communistism and anti-LGBT forces unite in the 1950s?
    - In what ways did the government increase involvement the personal beliefs and lives of Americans in the 1950s because of the Cold War?
    - Who was Alger Hiss?
    - Who was Joe McCarthy and what was McCarthyism and Red Baiting?

    Optional Supplemental Viewing
    Mission to Moscow (1943) - Movie Trailer
    Mission to Moscow (1943) - Full Movie
    Song of Russia (1944) - Movie Trailer
    Song of Russia (1944) - Full Movie

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 2 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    Primary Sources
    - National Security Act of 1947
    Security Council of the United Nations Complaints of aggression upon the Republic of Korea (1950)
    NSC 68: United States Objectives and Programs for National Security (April 14, 1950)

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  6. Chapter 5: Suburban Nation

    Thought Questions
    - What is the "Migrant Madonna" photo and what does it and the story of Florence Thompson tell us about the transition into the Post War era from the Great Depression?
    - Describe the changes in America due to post war economic growth?
    - How did suburbanization effect the North, South and West?
    - How did "Fordism" or the mass production of consumer goods in the post war period effect cultural and family life in United States?
    - In what ways did the culture of the automobile develop in the post war period and how did this effect the United States culturally and physically?
    - Describe the infrastructure development that transformed American life in post war period
    - How did the nature of work and employment change in the post war period?
    - In what ways did government and the private sector work together to create a social safety net in the United States?
    - What role did unions play in post war economic growth and workplace reforms and how did management and government react to this development?
    - How did advertising and new methods of financing consumer spending effect the development of consumerism and mass production?
    - In what ways were Suburbanization, Consumerism and Fordism interrelated?
    - How did suburbanization effect cities and rural areas?
    - In what ways did suburbanization effect structural racism?
    - How was American religious life changed by the movement of peoples?
    - How did suburbanization effect the American family and gender roles?
    - What were the drawbacks and advantages of the combined processes of suburbanization, mass production and consumerism?

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 3 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacs-on
    - For information about the process of suburbanization in American, see The Crabgrass Frontier: The Suburbanization of the United States by Kenneth T. Jackson

    Primary Sources
    Photo of Florence Thompson with several of her children (Migrant Madonna) by Dorothea Lange - March 1936
    Goodbye, Columbus : And Five Short Stories by Philip Roth

    Articles
    Migrant Madonna article from the Smithsonian
    The Story of the "Migrant Mother" - PBS

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  7. Chapter 6: We the Union Army
    This is my favorite chapter in the book. It explains a interesting and complex story with lots of interconnected elements in an meaningful and understandable way, but obviously not comprehensively due to space.

    Thought Questions
    - How did World War II effect civil rights in the post war period?
    - How did the Klan and similar organizations effect and use religion?
    - How did economics play a role in advancing and resisting Civil Rights?
    - Who were the Dixiecrats?
    - What was the background to the Brown v Board of Education case?
    - What were the main arguments in Plessy v. Ferguson?
    - What were the main arguments in the Brown v Board of Education case?
    - In what ways did states and communities resist integration?
    - Who was Emmett Till and how did he become a symbol of Southern racial violence?
    - Who was Rosa Parks and how were bus boycotts a part of the civil rights movement?
    - How were Christian Churches involved - in different ways - in the civil rights movement?
    - How was the labor movement, unions, socialists and communists involved - in very different ways - in the civil rights movement?
    - Describe the history of the Montgomery Bus Boycott movement and the Woolworths demonstrations?
    - What was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference?
    - What was the NAACP?
    - How did the Cold War effect civil rights in the United States?
    - Why was Little Rock High School desegregation different from other school desegregations?
    - How did civil rights effect the admission of Hawaii and Alaska as states?
    - How were Hispanic, Asian and Native American communities effected by the civil rights movement?
    - In what ways were non-violent protests successful in advancing civil rights and how did they effect public opinion?
    - In what ways was Perception and Reality on civil rights positions a factor in the Kennedy-Nixon 1960 election? (Nixon was a manipulative person non above self serving racism - just like Kennedy and Johnson - thank G-d for Gerald Ford).

    Primary Sources
    Supreme Court Decision - Plessy v. Ferguson - 1896
    Supreme Court Decision - Brown v Board of Education - May 17, 1954
    Photos related to Emmett Till (Graphic content)

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 4 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  8. Chapter 7: Hour of Maximum Danger

    Thought Questions
    - In what ways does this chapter demonstrate the 1960's were the "Hour of Maximum Danger"
    - Describe the beginning of the Space Age in the United States and Russia?
    - How did the Cold War and the end of Western Colonialism effect the developing world?
    - What were the events surrounding the western interventions in Iran, Egypt and Lebanon?
    - How did American involvement in Latin America progress after World War II?
    - In what ways were the views of Eisenhower and Kennedy on the Cold War in similar and different ways?

    Articles
    Brief Biography of John Foster Dulles
    Brief Biography of Allen Dulles
    Brief Biography of Nikita Khrushchev
    Brief Biography of Gamal Abdel Nasser
    JFK 100: Milestones & Mementos
    John F. Kennedy Brief Biography

    Links
    John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
    Dwight Eisenhower Presidential Library

    Primary Sources
    Kennedy Inauguration Address
    Photos of the Kennedy Presidency

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 5 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  9. Chapter 8: The Democratic Revolution

    Thought Questions
    - In what ways did a new populism on both the left and right effect the United States?
    - What were the factors that created and sustained student activism and unrest before the Vietnam protests?
    - What circumstances influenced the increase in participation in higher education?
    - How was the 1960s a period of generational conflict and transition?
    - Who was Barry Goldwater and how did he represent the "New Right"?
    - What was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and how was Martin Luther King Jr. involved in its activity?
    - Describe the demographic shift to political parties that occurred in the 1960s and how did this realignment effect American politics?
    - How did education in California become a model for the nation?
    - What were the major social reforms Lyndon Johnson supported during 1964?
    - What was the Johnson domestic agenda for his post election term?
    - Who were the Beat generation and how did they represent social transition?
    - What were "Freedom Schools", who were the "Freedom Riders" and what events marked "Freedom Summer"?
    - How did the West and the South react to change in the 1960s?
    - In what ways did women's rights advance in the 1960s?
    - What was the Great Society and its major elements?
    - What were the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1964?
    - Who was George Wallace and how did he symbolize reactionary elements in the United States?
    - What was Medicare and Medicaid and how did they build on the New Deal foundation?
    - How did race and immigration effect reforms in the 1960s?
    - In what ways did environmental protection and conservation change America in the 1960s?
    - What were the Watts Riots and how did it effect the Johnson administration policy?
    - Why was Southern California a center of social conflict in the 1960s?

    Primary Sources
    Civil Rights Act of 1964
    Voting Rights Act of 1965
    Johnson Address before Joint Session of Congress, 11/27/63
    Lyndon Johnson 1965 Inaugural Address - January 20, 1965
    State of the Union 1964
    State of the Union 1965
    State of the Union 1966
    State of the Union 1967
    President Johnson's Address to the Nation, 3/31/68
    Martin Luther King Jr. Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech
    Martin Luther King Interview- Civil Rights (Merv Griffin Show 1967)
    Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Debate

    Articles
    Brief Biography: Barry Goldwater
    Brief Biography: Lyndon Johnson
    Brief Biography: George Wallace
    Brief Biography: William F. Buckley
    The Freedom Riders - PBS American Experience Documentary
    - Photo Archive and Video: Freedom Riders

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 6 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Finish Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  10. Chapter 9: Apocalypse Now

    Thought Questions
    - How did the war in southeast Asia accelerate the process of social change in the United States?
    - How did the North and South Vietnamese each differ from the United States on how they conceived the war and its purpose?
    - How did the legacy of French colonialism impact the war in South and North Vietnam?
    - How did American policy towards Vietnam evolve from Eisenhower to Kennedy, then Johnson and finally Nixon?
    - In what ways did American culture clash with Vietnamese culture and aspirations?
    - How did the Anti-War movement effect domestic civilian opinion and veterans in or returning from Southeast Asia?
    - How did age, class and education effect Americans views and actions toward authority in general and the war specifically?
    - Describe the events of the Tet offensive, its development and the impact it made on the war
    - How did political violence effect the United States during the war?
    - Describe the atmosphere of the 1968 American elections

    Thought / Response Quotes
    - "When the last American troops left Vietnam in early 1973, silence settled in. After years of bitter debate over the war, few people seemed to have much interest in coming to a reckoning with what had occurred."
    - "The bizarre juxtaposition of American consumer culture and gruesome warfare required the United States to send a flood of arms and material into Vietnam, overwhelming its infrastructure."
    - "After New York Times reporter David Halberstam wrote in August 1963 that in spite of nearly two years of American military buildup, “South Vietnam’s military situation in the vital Mekong Delta has deteriorated in the past year”"
    - "Political murder seemed to be becoming normalized, eliminating key African American leaders and helping determine who sat in the White House."

    Primary Sources
    The Presidential Papers of Lyndon Johnson

    Articles
    - Lyndon B. Johnson Brief Biography

    Optional Supplemental Viewing
    The Deer Hunter (1978)
    Apocalypse Now (1979)

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 7 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Begin Reading The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  11. Chapter 10: Sixties to Seventies, Dreams to Nightmares

    Thought Questions
    - In what ways were the Nixon years a reactionary time?
    - How did Americans begin to view themselves and others differently during this transitional era?
    - How and why was education a significant battleground in the struggle for civil rights?
    - How did the private school movement expand during school integration?
    - What were the core beliefs of the "Black Power" movement and how do they compare and contrast with the "White Power" movement during this period?
    - What was the "Chicano" civil rights movement in this period and how did it develop out of the larger Hispanic civil rights movement?
    - How was the Women's rights movement different from the other civil rights movements?
    - In what ways was the Women's Rights movement torn between suburban conservatism and progressive activism?
    - In what ways was the Gay Rights movement torn between suburban conservatism and progressive activism and how was the Stonewall uprising a watershed moment in this regard?
    - How were the lives of children and the elderly effected by the civil rights evolution?
    - How did Nixon's Cold War strategy evolve with the issue of Vietnam?
    - What did Cambodia symbolize different but consistent values in American life during this time?
    - What was Nixon's New Economic Policy (NEP) - yes we actually had an anti-Communist President that named his economic plan the New Economic Policy (NEP)

    Primary Sources
    Address to the Nation Outlining a New Economic Policy: "The Challenge of Peace"
    The President's News Conference on Foreign Policy - March 14, 1971

    Articles and Resources
    The Stonewall Uprising

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 8 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  12. Chapter 11: The End of the American Century

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 9 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  13. Chapter 12: The Landscape of Decline

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 10 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Finish Reading The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. Chapter 13: The Politics of Stagnation

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 11 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Begin Reading The Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  15. Chapter 14: The Corporate Revolution

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 12 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  16. Chapter 15: The Reagan Revolution

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 13 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  17. Chapter 16: Cold War Redux

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 14 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  18. Chapter 17: I’m Running Out of Demons

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 15 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  19. Chapter 18: Triangulation

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 16 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Continue Reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  20. Chapter 19: Living Large and Epilogue: America After 9/11

    Thought Questions
    - X

    Primary Sources
    - X

    Articles
    - X

    Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Chapter 17 -The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson

    American Literature Optional Supplemental Reading
    - Finish Reading Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Here is our current reading list and the books that are proposed:

  1. American Empire: The Rise of a Global Power, the Democratic Revolution at Home, 1945-2000 by Joshua Freeman and Eric Foner
  2. The Fifties by David Halberstam
  3. The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage by Todd Gitlin
  4. The Seventies: The Great Shift In American Culture, Society, And Politics by Bruce J. Schulman
  5. The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America, 1932-1972 by William Manchester
  6. Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974 by James T. Patterson
  7. The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam
  8. Where the Domino Fell: America and Vietnam 1945 - 2010 (6th Edition) by James S. Olson and Randy W. Roberts
  9. The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made by Walter Isaacson and Evan Thomas
  10. The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam
  11. A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam by Neil Sheehan
  12. A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo
  13. The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
  14. The Korean War by Max Hastings
  15. From the Jaws of Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Cesar Chavez and the Farm Worker Movement by Matthew Garcia
  16. The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle by Lillian Faderman
  17. Youth, Identity, Power: The Chicano Movement by Carlos Munoz
  18. The Cold War: A New History by John Lewis Gaddis
  19. Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965 by Juan Williams
  20. God's Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America by Larry Eskridge
  21. From Jim Crow to Civil Rights: The Supreme Court and the Struggle for Racial Equality by Michael J. Klarman
  22. The Other Women's Movement: Workplace Justice and Social Rights in Modern America by Dorothy Sue Cobble
  23. The Other Movement: Indian Rights and Civil Rights in the Deep South by Denise E. Bates
  24. The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society by Julian E. Zelizer
  25. The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon by Stanley I. Kutler

Welcome and thank you for your interest.

After the first books listed above we will select the next books we read from the list below. Provide us feedback and suggestions for our next book by clicking here.

Click here to see the list of suggested books we may decide to read