American Empire by Joshua Freeman – Chapter 11: The End of the American Century

Thought Questions

  • What does the author mean when he labels this time “the end of the American century”?
  • In what ways was Détente and the decline of the Cold War responsible for the “end” of the American Century? 
  • Why did Spiro Agnew resign and how did this impact the Nixon administration? 
  • How did the events around the Watergate break in unfold? 
  • In what ways did Nixon use the power of government to oppress his political adversaries? 
  • What are the Pentagon Papers and how did the impact the situation in Southeast Asia and the United States? 
  • How did Nixon become an obstacle to the “normality” Americans were seeking? 
  • What was the War Powers Act and how did it impact the Presidency and the Cold War? 
  • Describe the “Mayaguez” incident. In what ways would this shadow the Carter administration during the Iran Hostage Crisis?
  • What were the consequences of the Republican fiscal and monetary policy in 1971 and 1972 and how did this effect the Carter and Ford Administrations? 

Response / Thought Quotes

  • “In delayed fashion, the consequences of using the power of the state in ways that had become routine during the Cold War took their toll.” 
  • “Nixon ordered the attorney general to fire him. Refusing, Elliot Richardson instead resigned. The deputy attorney general would not oust Cox either.” 
  • “Inexpensive fuel had come to be seen as such an entitlement that people were outraged, even though in mid-1974 the price of a gallon of gasoline, an irreplaceable resource that had to be extracted from the ground, refined, and transported long distances, remained only about a third the cost of a gallon of Coca-Cola, essentially carbonated sugar water.” 

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American Empire by Joshua Freeman – 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)

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American Empire by Joshua Freeman – 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.” 

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American Empire by Joshua Freeman – 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?

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American Empire by Joshua Freeman – 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 and Resources

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American Empire by Joshua Freeman – 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).

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American Empire by Joshua Freeman – 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

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American Empire by Joshua Freeman – 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? 

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American Empire by Joshua Freeman – 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? 

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American Empire by Joshua Freeman – 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 

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American Empire by Joshua Freeman – 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) 

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