History | Radical U.S. Social Movements
A379 | 5226 | Petenbrink


Above class open to undergraduates and EDUC MA's only

“Why is there no socialism in the United States?”
-Werner Sombart

This question, originally posed in 1905 by a German sociologist, has
come to represent a widely-held view that our nation has, throughout
its history, been fundamentally resistant to the influence of
radical ideologies and political activists.  However, this course
will challenge that basic question by examining the history of the
United States from its inception to the present through the lens of
its radical social movements.  Often ignored or dismissed as a minor
part of the political and culture life of the nation, movements for
fundamental change through unsanctioned means have been a consistent
theme in American history from its founding.  In addition to
recovering anarchists, domestic communists, and African American
nationalists from the obscurity of mainstream historical narratives,
students will also be asked to reexamine better known social
movements like the American Revolution, abolitionism, and women’s
suffrage in light of the question “What is does it mean to be
radical?”  We will discuss the relationship of these “fringe” groups
to mainstream American politics and society.  How have radicals
sought to change the nation through both their ideas and actions?
How have internal divisions and inconsistencies hindered these
movements?  What are the sources of both official and popular
resistance to the message of radical activists?  And, ultimately,
how have radical organizations shaped the history of the United
States, in spite of their seemingly limited support?

Students will be asked to think critically about radical movements
and their place in American history by examining primary sources
from the movements themselves.  Through this process, students will
enhance their ability to think analytically, form arguments, and
present their ideas in writing.