WHAT IS AMERICAN FREEDOM? From the Revolution to our own time, freedom has been America’s strongest cultural bond and its


WHAT IS AMERICAN FREEDOM?

From the Revolution to our own time, freedom has been America’s strongest cultural bond and its most perilous fault line, a birthright for some Americans and a cruel mockery for others. Eric Foner, the author of our textbook, takes freedom not as a timeless truth but as a value whose meaning and scope have been contested throughout American history. (Norton Publishers)

Freedom has never been a fixed category or concept.  Rather, it has been the subject of persistent conflict in American history. The history of American freedom is a tale of debates, disagreements, and struggles rather than a set of timeless categories or an evolutionary narrative toward a preordained goal. And the meaning of freedom has been constructed at all levels of society—not only in congressional debates and political treatises, but on plantations and picket lines, in parlors and even in bedrooms. 

The idea of America as an embodiment of freedom in a world overrun by tyranny goes back to well before the American Revolution. Ironically, however, this ideology has been challenged on many levels. Over the course of this semester, you will examine the idea of freedom in the context of different times, places, and spaces. At the end of the semester, you will be asked to define, for yourself, American freedom after having read about its nuances and transitions over the different decades.

Essentially, what does freedom entail and who are the Americans who get it? 

For each chapter, there is a lead question that will encourage you to dig deeply and assess how freedom has been shaped and reshaped by social and political struggles within the United States — struggles such as women’s rights, labor organization, immigrants, and freedom of speech for those outside the social mainstream.  

In addition, you will watch the documentary “Amend” (YouTube) to help guide you through your comprehension of freedom and it’s connection to the 14th Amendment.  Using your answers to these questions, class lectures, class discussion boards, and your text, you will outline American Freedom for your final project. 


Chapter Themes and Amend Correlation: 

Chapter 15
What visions of freedom did the former slaves and slaveholders pursue in the postwar South?


Amend: Episode 1

Chapter 16
How did the economic development of the Gilded Age affect American freedom?

Chapter 17
In what ways did the boundaries of American freedom grow narrower in this period?

Chapter 18
How did the labor and women’s movements expand the meanings of American freedom?

Chapter 19
Why was 1919 such a watershed year for the United States and the world?


Amend Episode 2

Chapter 20
Why did the protection of civil liberties gain importance in the 1920s?

Chapter 21
How did the New Deal recast the definition of American Freedom?

Chapter 22
How did American minorities face threats to their freedom at home and abroad during World War II?


Amend Episode 3

Chapter 23
How did the Cold War reshape ideas of American freedom?

Chapter 24
What were the major thrusts of the civil rights movement in this period?

Chapter 25
What were the sources and significance of the rights revolution of the late 1960s?


Amend Episode 4

Chapter 26
How did Vietnam and the Watergate scandal affect popular trust in the government?


Amend Episode 5

Chapter 27
How did the war on terror affect the economy and American liberties?


Amend Episode 6

Chapter 28
What were the prevailing ideas of American freedom at the beginning of the 21st century

Amend:  The Fight for America
Episode 1 – “Citizen”
Episode 2 – “Resistance”
Episode 3 – “Wait”
Episode 4 – “Control”
Episode 5 – “Love”
Episode 6 – “Promise”

Final Presentation Guidelines: 

This scaffolding assignment challenges the student to think about one specific theme throughout the entire semester — Freedom.  The textbook that we use centers around this theme, as do my lectures.  At different points during the semester, you will watch episodes of the documentary, “Amend”  and submitted a writing summary of the episode. Several discussion boards, at different points during the semester, will also explore the idea of freedom and allow you to discuss it with your classmates (in a respectful manner, of course).  At the end of the semester, you will use these writings, your notes, and a tad of research to create an online presentation that delivers your own definition of American Freedom . . .  as “you” see it after gaining more knowledge.  

You have the option of presenting a Podcast, Blog, or Prezi (or something similar that may have more nuances).  In your presentation, you will trace the idea of freedom in at least 5 different chapters.  You will present the context of freedom as defined within those chapters, using the questions above.  
3  of those chapters MUST be ones with a correlating Amend episode.

You will do the following for each of your chosen 5 chapters: 

1. Respond to the question that is posed for the chapter. And, be certain to include what was happening during that time that was directly connected to the idea of freedom.

2. Tell me who gets freedom in that chapter and who is denied freedom? And, how does that affect American society? 

3. If there is an “Amend” Episode correlated to that chapter (and remember, you must have at least 3 chapters that have a paired episode), please describe how the question relates to that particular Amend Episode.   

The final part to the presentation will be for you to provide your own broadly based interpretation of American Freedom –


“What does freedom mean, who gets to claim it, who doesn’t and why, and ultimately any future transformations that you see on the horizon?”
 

Your response must be based upon fact and must be supported by evidence (primary documents, data, statistics, journal articles, and other secondary sources—opinion is fine, but it must be base upon reality/fact).  

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