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Constructing the American Past

A Sourcebook of a People's History, Volume 2 from 1865

Eighth Edition

Edited by Elliott J. Gorn, Randy Roberts, Susan Schulten, and Terry D. Bilhartz

Publication Date - October 2017

ISBN: 9780190280963

384 pages
7-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Asking students to become historians, Constructing the American Past presents a series of "case studies" of particular events in American history


Now published by Oxford University Press, Constructing the American Past: A Source Book of a People's History, Eighth Edition, presents an innovative combination of case studies and primary source documents that allow students to discover, analyze, and construct history from the actors' perspective.

Beginning with Christopher Columbus and his interaction with the Spanish crown in 1492, and ending in the Reconstruction-era United States, Constructing the American Past provides eyewitness accounts of historical events, legal documents that helped shape the lives of citizens, and excerpts from diaries that show history through an intimate perspective. The authors expand upon past scholarship and include new material regarding gender, race, and immigration in order to provide a more complete picture of the past.

New to this Edition

  • New chapters (seven and twelve) in Volume One address the problems of immigration and emancipation
  • Substantially revised chapters in Volume Two on World War One (seven), the Scopes Trial (nine) Great Depression (ten), the Second World War (eleven), the Cold War (twelve), Civil Rights (thirteen), Vietnam (fourteen), and liberalism (fifteen)
  • More inclusion of the diversity of female experience
  • An expanded chapter on the Second Great Awakening explores the relationship between evangelical revivals and social reform
  • New material on the Indian policies of President Andrew Jackson
  • In-depth coverage of Texas Independence and the subsequent war with Mexico underscores the dilemmas brought by western expansion
  • A new chapter on immigration explores the history of nativism
  • A new chapter on emancipation in the Civil War demonstrates the role not just of President Lincoln, but of slaves, abolitionists, and the military
  • New imagery provokes discussion and conveys the visual dimension of the past

About the Author(s)

Elliott J. Gorn is Joseph A. Gagliano Chair in American Urban History at Loyola University Chicago.

Randy Roberts is Distinguished Professor of History at Purdue University.

Susan Schulten is Professor of History at the University of Denver.

Terry D. Bilhartz was Professor of History at Sam Houston State University.


"Constructing the American Past lets students be historians, delve deeply into a single issue, and come to some conclusions of their own. Professors who want to show their students what it's like to be a historian will love it."--Cindy Hahamovitch, University of Georgia

"Compared to other sourcebooks on the market, Constructing the American Past has a focused chapter approach. Other sourcebooks just offer a chapter-by-chapter collection of sources that are relevant, but mostly unconnected or unfocused. With Constructing the American Past, students are led into problem-solving, which is the essence of history."--Louis Haas, Middle Tennessee State University

Table of Contents

    Each chapter ends with Questions and Additional Reading.

    Preface and introduction

    Chapter 1: Reconstruction and the Rise of the Ku Klux Klan
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Initiation Oath of the Knights of the White Camelia
    2. Testimony of Victims of the Ku Klux Klan
    3. Congressional Inquiry into Klan Activities, 1871
    4. Jeb Stevenson, speech to the House of Representatives, 1872
    5. Benjamin Bryant, From Experience of a Northern Man among the Ku-Klux, 1872
    6. W.H. Gannon, from The Grand Army of the Republic versus the Ku Klux Klan, 1872
    7. Mississippi Governor Adelbert Ames to President Grant, 1875
    8. Attorney-General Pierrepont to Adelbert Ames, 1875

    Chapter 2: The Great Strike of 1877
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Proclamation and Testimony of Sherriff William Jennings, 1877
    2. A striker describes "Fair Wages," 1877
    3. Pennsylvania Railroad President Thomas Scott evaluates "The Recent Strikes," 1877
    4. Allan Pinkerton, from Strikers, Communists, Tramps and Detectives, 1878
    5. Terence Powderly, "The thorough unification of labor," 1878
    6. Joseph Keppler satirizes the gap between rich and poor, 1882
    7. Henry Ward Beecher on the absence of class, 1877
    8. Samuel Gompers, "A Declaration of Protest in the Name of American Manhood," 1925
    9. "Mother" Jones on the Great Uprising, 1925

    Chapter 3: Cultures Collide at Wounded Knee
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Z.A. Parker, "The Ghost Dance Observed," 1890
    2. Letters from Reservation Agents, 1890
    3. William Selwyn's interview with Kuwapi, 1890
    4. Petition to the Federal Government, 1890
    5. Petition to the Federal Government, 1890
    6. Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1891
    7. Letters by Military Leaders, 1890 and 1891
    8. Eyewitness reports of Indians interviewed by the Office of Indian Affairs,
    9. Government and military statement on Wounded Knee
    10. Pamphlet promoting land opened to settlement, 1910

    Chapter 4: New Americans: The Immigrants
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Jacob Riis, "Little Italy," 1890
    2. Rocco Corresca, "The Biography of a Bootblack," 1902
    3. Jacob Riis, "Chinatown," 1890
    4. Lee Chew, "The Biography of a Chinaman," 1903
    5. Jacob Riis, "Jewtown," 1890
    6. Rose Schneiderman, "A Cap Maker's Story," 1905

    Chapter 5: Theodore Roosevelt and the Rise of American Empire
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Albert J. Beveridge, "The March of the Flag," 1898
    2. William Graham Sumner, "The Conquest of the United States by Spain," 1898
    3. Theodore Roosevelt, "The Strenuous Life," 1899
    4. Press Opposition to the War, 1899
    5. Proceedings of the Congressional Committee on the Philippines, 1902
    6. Woodrow Wilson, "The Ideals of America," 1902

    Chapter 6: Meatpacking and Muckraking
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Upton Sinclair, excerpt from The Jungle, 1906
    2. Antanas Kaztauski's Story, 1904
    3. Letter from Upton Sinclair to President Roosevelt, 1906
    4. From the House Congressional Record, 1906
    5. Underwood Canned Meat advertisement, 1906
    6. Open letter from Louis Swift, 1906

    Chapter 7: Mobilizing for War
    1. George Creel, How We Advertised America, 1920
    2. Matlack Price, "The Artist's Call to Colors," 1918
    3. Posters from the First World War
    "I Want You for the U.S. Army," c.1917
    "Gee!! I Wish I Were a Man, I'd Join the Navy," 1917
    "The United States Army Builds Men," c.1919
    "Destroy This Mad Brute, Enlist," c.1918
    "If You Can't Enlist-Invest," 1918
    "Remember Belgium," c.1918
    "Lend as They Fight," 1918
    "Fight or Buy Bonds," 1917
    "Beat Back the Hun With Liberty Bonds," 1918
    "Can Vegetables, Fruit, and the Kaiser Too," 1918
    "Joan of Arc Saved France," 1918
    4. From the Espionage Act, 1917
    5. From the Sedition Act, 1918
    6. From the Biennial Report of the California State Board of Education, 1918
    7. Open letter from the California Commissioner of Secondary School, 1918
    8. Eugene Debs addresses the court, 1919

    Chapter 8: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Margaret Sanger, The Woman Rebel, 1914
    2. Anthony Comstock on Birth Control, 1915
    3. Margaret Sanger, The Case for Birth Control, 1917
    4. Michael P. Dowling, Race-Suicide, 1915
    5. Physicians' Statements on Birth Control, from Harper's Weekly, 1915
    6. Debate between Margaret Sanger and Winter Russell, 1920
    7. Margaret Sanger, The Pivot of Civilization, 1922

    Chapter 9: Science, Religion, and the Scopes Trial
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. From George William Hunter, A Civic Biology, 1914
    2. J.W. Porter, "Evolution: A Menace," 1922
    3. The Butler Act, 1925
    4. Clarence Darrow questions William Jennings Bryan in the Scopes Trial, 1925
    5. H.L. Mencken, "In Memoriam: W.J.B.," 1926
    6. Reverend Dr. Joseph R. Sizoo, "A Eulogy for Bryan," 1925
    7. S.K. Ratcliffe, "America and Fundamentalism," 1925

    Chapter 10: The Great Depression
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Americans Write to Their Leaders in the 1930s
    2. Two photographs by Dorothea Lange, 1936
    3. Ben Shahn photographs a young girl in the cotton fields, 1935
    4. Arthur Rothstein photographs a demonstration by the unemployed, 1936
    5. Ralph Ellison interviews a man in Harlem, 1939
    6. Tom Kromer, from Waiting for Nothing, 1935
    7. Meridel Le Sueur, from "Women on the Breadlines," 1932
    8. Meridel Le Sueur, from "I Was Marching," 1934
    9. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, letter to Preisent of the Daughters of the American Revolution, 1939
    10. First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, from My Day, 1939
    11. Louise Jefferson letter to Secretary Harold Ickes on Marian Anderson, 1939

    Chapter 11: The Good War
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. President Roosevelt, Annual Message to Congress, January 6, 1941
    2. Norman Rockwell visualizes "The Four Freedoms," 1943
    3. Charles Lindbergh testifies against Lend Lease, 1941
    4. Prime Minister Winston Churchill solicits American support, 1941
    5. The Court Martial of Jackie Robinson, 1944
    6. Evacuation Order pursuant to Executive Order 9066, 1942
    7. General DeWitt, Final Report on the Evacuation of Japanese, 1943
    8. Ansel Adams, Baseball Game at Manzanar Relocation Center, 1943
    9. Ansel Adams, Catholic Church, Manzanar Relocation Center, 1943
    10. Ansel Adams, Roy Takeno Reading Paper, Manzanar Relocation Center, 1943
    11. Supreme Court majority opinion, Hirabayashi v. United States, 1943
    12. Justice Murphy's Supreme Court dissent, Hirabayashi v. United States , 1943
    13. General Eisenhower cites the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, 1946
    14. Staff Sargeant James Nakashima, 1944

    Chapter 12: Battling Communism at Home
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. The Truman Doctrine, 1947
    2. "The Screen Guide for Americans," 1947
    3. Testimony of Jack Warner to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1947
    4. Advertisement from the Hollywood Reporter, 1947
    5. Raymond Allen, "Communists Should not Teach in American Colleges," 1948
    6. Herbert Phillips protests the dismissal of Communist Professors at the University of Washington, 1948
    7. Senator Joseph McCarthy, Speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, 1950
    8. Telegram from Senator McCarthy to President Truman, 1950
    9. Unset telegram from President Truman to Senator McCarthy, 1950
    10. Thomas McGrath's Statement to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, 1953
    11. President Eisenhower's Commencement Address at Dartmouth College, 1953

    Chapter 13: Civil Rights: State Rights versus Federal Intervention
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Sworn Testimony of Jackie Robinson, 1949
    2. Jackie Robinson letter to President Eisenhower, 1958
    3. Jackie Robinson letter to President Kennedy, 1961
    4. White House Special Message to Congress on Civil Rights, 1963
    5. Televised Debate between Senators Hubert Humphrey and Strom Thurmond on Civil Rights Bill, 1964
    6. Senator Richard Russell, Speech against the Civil Rights Bill, 1964
    7. Senator Everett Dirksen, Speech in favor of cloture and Civil Rights Bill, 1964
    8. The Civil Rights Act, 1964
    9. President Lyndon Johnson, address to the nation, 1964
    10. SNCC Pamphlet on Voting Rights, 1964
    Prospectus for the Mississippi Freedom Summer, c.1964
    12. Bob Moses Memorandum to "Friends of Freedom in Mississippi," 1964
    13. Statement of John Lewis to the FBI regarding violence at Selma, 1965
    14. Letter from Massachusetts to the FBI regarding violence at Selma, 1965
    15. Letter from New York to Congressman Celler regarding literacy tests, 1965
    16. The Voting Rights Act of1965

    Chapter 14: Vietnam: The Tipping Point
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. John Steinbeck, letter to President Johnson, 1966
    2. Jackie Robinson, letter to President Johnson, 1967
    3. Draft Resistance Leaflet, 1968
    4. President Johnson Press Conference on Vietnam, 1968
    5. Conversation between Defense Secretary Clark Clifford and President Johnson, 1968
    6. Clark Clifford assesses his early months as Secretary of Defense, 1968
    7. President Johnson address to the nation, 1968
    8. Press Release of Sergeant Jay Roberts, 1968
    9. Report of Investigation, 1968
    10. Gregory Olson testimony from the Peers Report, 1970
    11. Herbert Carter testimony from the Peers Report, 1970
    12. Lieutenant William Calley testimony from the Peers Report, 1970
    13. Nguyen Hieu testimony from the Peers Report, 1970

    Chapter 15: Turning Left
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Testimony of Cesar Chavez before the Senate, 1969
    2. Testimony of Dolores Huerta before the Senate, 1969
    3. Cesar Chavez speaks on money and organizing, 1971
    4. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, speech on the Equal Rights Amendment, 1969
    5. The Equal Rights Amendment
    6. Constituent letter to Congressman Don Edwards, 1971
    7. Letter to Congressman Edwards Supporting the ERA, 1971
    8. Testimony of Gloria Steinem before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 1970
    9. Advertisement for Earth Day, 1970
    10. Senator Gaylord Nelson outlines a national environmental agenda, 1970
    11. Environmental activism in Michigan, 1970

    Chapter 16: Turning Right
    Historical Context
    The Documents
    1. Barry Goldwater, from The Conscience of a Conservative, 1960
    2. The Founding Principles of the Young Americans for Freedom, 1960
    3. Phyllis Schlafly, from The Power of the Positive Woman, 1977
    4. Lewis Powell, Attack on American Free Enterprise System, 1971
    5. President Ronald Reagan, speech before the National Association of Evangelicals, 1983
    6. Pat Robertson, campaign speech, 1986
    7. Patrick Buchanan, concession speech, 1992
    8. Newt Gingrich, Contract With America, 1994

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