HIST 495/713: Social Justice in the New Nation

History 495/713

Social Justice in the New Nation
Fall 2009

Professor Terry Bouton

Phone: 410-455-2056

Email: bouton[at]umbc.edu

Office: 722 Administration Bldg.
Office Hours:
MW 10:30AM-12:00PM and by appointment


 (It is always best to email before you plan to come to office hours to ensure that we haven’t already scheduled another student for that time).


Course Webpage: http://research.umbc.edu/~bouton/SocialJustice/SocialJustice09.htm

*I would advise book-marking this page since it has links to all the documents and assignments*

Course Meeting Place: Admin 711

Course Meeting Time: W 2:30pm-5:00pm


Course Description:
This course is seminar that will investigate the broad theme of social justice from the American Revolution to the eve of the Civil War.  We will explore how different people conceived of social justice, probe the lived experiences of those who claim to have been denied social justice, and examine movements aimed at reform in the name of social justice. Students will try to understand how and why particular ideas of social justice emerged and how they changed over time. We’ll consider factors such as class, race, gender, ideology, region, politics, and religion. The course will pay particular attention to the advocates of social justice: abolitionists, middle class reformers, slave rebels, Christian evangelicals, the first proponents of women’s rights, insurgent Native Americans, and activists in the early labor movement. The course will investigate how these reformers and reform movements began and assess their successes and failures.


This is a seminar that will be composed of the discussion of weekly readings and a semester-long research project. Most of the course will involve reading and classroom discussion. On some weeks everyone will read the same book; on other weeks we will read around a particular topic, with each student tackling a different book or set of journal articles. To help focus discussion, each student will submit postings to Blackboard that try to place a given reading within the broad themes of social justice raised by the course. Each student will also complete a research project that will result in a minimum fifteen-page paper. There’s flexibility with the paper topic and format, but it must fit within the course time frame and touch upon the general theme of social justice.  At the end of the semester, each student will give a brief in-class presentation of their research project and findings.

Learning Objectives:

  • Develop skills in critically analyzing historical ideas, arguments, and evidence
  • Make strong, clear arguments and support those arguments with effective use of quotes and specific examples from primary and secondary historical sources
  • Write cogent, coherent, well organized, and persuasive essays—and gain insights on how to apply good writing techniques to other courses and projects
  • Develop an understanding of the various ways different people in the new American republic conceived of social justice and the historical context(s) that gave rise to those beliefs
  • Analyze the reformers and reform movements of the period
  • Consider the influences and intersections shaping social justice of such factors as: economics, politics, ideology, race, ethnicity, class, gender, religion, and geography.
  • Gain experience in locating and assembling primary source materials
  • Gain experience in compiling a historiography survey of a specific topic



The following are available for purchase at the campus bookstore.  If you’re shopping for used copies, you may be able to save some money by purchasing from www.amazon.com, http://half.ebay.com/index.jsp or www.bookfinder.com.
1) Alan Dawley, Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn [SPECIAL EDITION] (Paperback), ISBN-13: 978-0674004313


2) Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (Paperback), Yale University Press, ISBN-13: 978-0300050608


3) Norrece T. Jones Jr., Born a Child of Freedom, Yet a Slave: Mechanisms of Control and Strategies of Resistance in Antebellum South Carolina, Wesleyan (Paperback), ISBN-13: 978-0819562463


4) Steven Mintz, Moralists and Modernizers: America’s Pre-Civil War Reformers, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, ISBN-13: 978-0801850813


5) Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860, (Paperback), ISBN-13: 978-0252014819


6) Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians, Hill & Wang, 1993, ISBN-13: 978-0809015528



The various assignments for the course will produce a possible 300 points.  Your total grade for the class will be determined by tallying your scores the following five elements:


Participation:                          30pts.

Discussion Postings:                          100 pts.

Primary Source Workshop:               15pts.

Draft of Project Workshop:               15pts.

Project Presentation:             25pts.

Reflection Posting:                            15pts.
Research Project:                              100 pts.

TOTAL GRADE:                              300 pts.


At the end of the semester:   270-300 points will be an A

                                                240-269 points will be a B

                                                210-239 points will be a C

                                                180-109 points will be a D

                                                Below 180 points will be an F

NOTE: Students taking HIST on a Credit/No Credit basis should remember that the university requires that you earn a final grade of at least a C to receive credit for the course. History majors and potential history majors need a C or better for the credits to count toward the major.

1) Class Participation (30 points):

The success of this class will require active participation by every student. Effective participation starts with preparation: reading the books, understanding them, and thinking through the issues they raise—before you step into the classroom. Participation also means engaging in the class discussion. This doesn’t mean answering one question and sitting quietly for the rest of class. It means participating throughout the evening and speaking up when you have something to add to the discussion. I understand that some people are shy and feel awkward participating. But you’re going to need to work through your reticence and speak up if you want a good participation grade. I can’t read minds and won’t be able to give you credit for ideas you have while you’re sitting in class that you don’t share with the group.


2) Discussion Postings:

Weekly Short Essays (100 points: 11 essays, each worth 10 points, I’ll drop the lowest essay):

Every week you will post a short analytical essay (about 3 pages) to the Blackboard discussion board which analyzes the week’s book from the perspective of social justice. I don’t want a “book report” where you parrot back the author’s main points and repeat the book’s narrative. Instead, you should write a critical analysis. I’ll provide a specific set of questions for each book to guide your essays. Nevertheless, the format will remain largely the same. Each week your objective is to discuss how this book (or set of journal articles) helps to illuminate the themes and issues of social justice that we are discussing this semester. I’ll leave room for flexibility. If there are particular issues in the book that grabbed your attention or that relate to your research or interests, you’re free to concentrate the essay on those issues. I’m especially happy if you use the essay to make connections between the book and earlier readings or class discussions. Keep in mind that, when you take such a comparative approach, I expect most of the essay will deal with the current week’s reading, not just rehash previous readings.


The goal is to develop an analytical essay that makes an argument (or series of arguments) and then dramatizes your points with quotes and examples taken from the text. I expect good organization (i.e. paragraphs organized around a single central argument that begin with strong topic sentences that spell out what the paragraph is trying to say). I also expect numerous examples to demonstrate your point. If you do not include specific examples and quotations (with page numbers included), I will assume that you didn’t read the book and relied instead on published book reviews and will grade you accordingly.


The grade for reading discussion will depend on the quality of your posts to the Blackboard Discussion Board, which I will treat as short papers. There will be ELEVEN posting assignments throughout the semester, each worth ten points. I will list the questions on Blackboard in the relevant Discussion Board folders.

NOTE: To receive full credit, you must make your posting by on the days listed below by 2:00PM.  If you do not finish your posting by class time, DO NOT cut class to submit a posting; simply submit it after class.  I will deduct DOUBLE the number of late points for any posting submitted during the time the class meets.

IMPORTANT: I require everyone to save a personal copy of all of their discussion postings on their home computer, floppy disk, or whatever other storage device they have.  Since Blackboard is occasionally buggy, I HIGHLY suggest that you type out your response with a word processing program and then cut and paste your response into Blackboard. If you have a problem with Blackboard, it is your responsibility to ensure that I receive a copy of your posting by the deadline. DO NOT automatically email me a copy of every posting.  ONLY email postings in the event of a Blackboard emergency.


Warning: I consider Blackboard Reading discussion to be one of the most important parts of the course. DO NOT take these assignments lightly. If you put effort into the postings, they are one of the surest ways to boost your grade. If you blow them off, they can kill your grade and result in you failing the course—no matter how well you do on the exams. When I assign final grades at the end of the semester, I always use postings to decide whether to bump up the grades of those on the borderlines. If you have diligently completed your postings, I usually will bump your grade. If you have failed to submit postings or continually submit them late, I WILL NOT BUMP YOUR GRADE even if you are one or two points short of the next grade level.
Getting started on Blackboard: Blackboard is relatively easy to use and will allow you to have access to course materials 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the Internet.  If you have registered for the course, you should automatically be registered on Blackboard. As a UMBC student, you have a personal email account and access to the Internet and through the school’s many on-campus computer labs.  You can also access Blackboard off campus through a personal account or from the UMBC dial-up.  BEFORE you do anything else, check to see if you are enrolled in the course by going to http://blackboard.umbc.edu.  If you have been automatically registered, take some time to explore the Blackboard site for the course.  If Blackboard indicates that you are not registered, follow the directions at the main Blackboard site for new users.


3) Primary Source Workshop (15pts):

This assignment is the posting of transcriptions of several documents from your research along with an introduction to the documents that explains them briefly and alerts the class to the issue about the documents with which you would like help.


4) Draft of Project Workshop (15pts):

This assignment is a draft of the analytical portion of your project. Given the wide variety of project possibilities (from a straight research paper, to a web page, to a teaching lesson plan, to a masters thesis prospectus), the drafts will take different forms. I don’t expect drafts to be a polished finished product. However, I do expect you to submit a decent amount of writing—at least as much as the weekly postings. I expect the main parts of what you submit to be in reasonably good shape in terms of organization and writing. And I expect you to engage with the secondary historiography on your topic.


5) Project Presentations (25pts):

Each student will give a brief (about 15 minutes) presentation on their research project. The idea is simply to introduce us to your topic, your documents, and to summarize your findings. You have wide latitude with the format of the presentation. I encourage creativity and urge you to think about an interesting way to present your project and findings to the class.


6) Research Project (100pts):

Each student will also complete a research project that will result in a minimum fifteen-page paper. There’s flexibility with the paper topic and format, but it must fit within the course time frame and touch upon the general theme of social justice. I’d like you to select a topic and format that are the most compatible with your interests and needs. That might mean the final project is a lesson plan with primary documents and an accompanying content narrative that places those documents in their historical context. It might be a prospectus for your masters thesis. It might be web page that presents documents as a learning tool for teachers, students, and the general public. It might be a straight research paper about some topic related to social justice. Whatever you opt to do, you need to clear your project with me!


7) Reflection Paper (15pts)

This is an open-ended assignment that asks you to reflect on what you’ve learned about social justice during the course. I don’t want you to rehash the readings. Rather, I’d like you to think broadly about some of the conclusions you’ve drawn about social justice in the antebellum period. That may cover such topics as: competing and/or changing definitions of social justice, the ways that various peoples tried to attain social justice, assessing the strengths and weaknesses of various reform or resistance strategies, and/or drawing conclusions about the possibilities and limits of social justice in the antebellum decades. You need not deal with all of these issues. Alternately, you might want to talk specifically about race, class, gender, or religion or the intersection of (all or some of) these factors as they relate to social justice. I’ll leave it up to you to decide how you would like to focus your essay. The only requirement is that you “think big” and try to offer some conclusions that run across the various readings we’ve done and the topics we’ve covered.

I will send all email messages to your UMBC email account
(yourusername@umbc.edu). If you do not usually check this account, have messages forwarded to your preferred email address (such as aol, hotmail, etc.). For help with this procedure, or if you have other questions about UMBC’s Office of Information Technology services visit the OIT helpsite at http://www.umbc.edu/oit/. Helpdesk personnel in the on-campus computer labs can help with most questions. The helpdesk phone number is 410-455-3838.

Random Rules:
TURN OFF CELL PHONES, BEEPERS, WATCH ALARMS, or any other device that might disturb the class.  I will make examples of those who violate this rule (for example, if your phone rings, I will take the call).  2) On test days, students will not wear hats of any kind.  If you come to class wearing a hat, you will be asked to remove it.  3) On test days, if you leave the room for any reason, I will consider your test to be completed.  In other words, make your trip to the restroom before the test begins. If you need a drink, bring one; if you have a cold, bring Kleenex.

Academic Integrity:
By enrolling in this course, each student assumes the responsibilities of an active participant in UMBC’s scholarly community in which everyone’s academic work and behavior are held to the highest standards of honesty. Cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and helping others to commit these acts are all forms of academic dishonesty, and they are wrong.  Academic misconduct could result in disciplinary action that may include, but is not limited to, suspension or dismissal.  To read the full Student Academic Conduct Policy, consult the UMBC Student Handbook, the Faculty Handbook, or the UMBC Policies section of the UMBC Directory. To read the policy online, see: http://www.umbc.edu/integrity/.

I show no mercy toward cheaters.  If you are caught cheating on any test or assignment, you will receive a zero for that grade and I will submit your name to the proper disciplinary authority.  Rest assured that I will do all I can to see that those disciplinary bodies take the strongest possible action against anyone who cheats.  Potential cheaters: you have been warned. 

Schedule of Classes and Reading Assignments


Week 1

Wed., Sept. 2:         Introduction


Fri., Sept. 4:            Discussion: What is social justice?


Post Discussion to Blackboard by 2:00PM: What is social justice? Use whatever sources you see fit to compose as comprehensive a definition of social justice as you can.


Week 2               

Wed., Sept. 9:        Class, the Industrial Revolution, and Social Justice

•Reading: Alan Dawley, Class and Community: The Industrial Revolution in Lynn

Post Discussion to Blackboard by 2:00PM: What issues of social justice did the industrial Revolution raise in Lynn, MA? How did workers try to attain social justice and how successful were their efforts?

Week 3

Wed., Sept. 16:     Gender, Class, and Social Justice              


•Reading: Christine Stansell, City of Women: Sex and Class in New York, 1789-1860

Post Discussion to Blackboard by 2:00PM: How does the concept of social justice apply to the experiences of working class women in antebellum New York City? How do those experience compare to what happened in Lynn?

Week 4

Wed., Sept. 23:       Women’s Rights and Social Justice


•Reading: READ AROUND (choose one of the following)




Post Discussion to Blackboard by 2:00PMWhat does the book you read reveal about social justice and the antebellum push for women’s rights?

Week 5

Wed., Sept. 30:       Social Justice and the Second Great Awakening


Reading: Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity


Post Discussion to Blackboard by 2:00PMTo what extent did the Second Great Awakening involve ideas of social justice?


Week 6

Wed., Oct. 7:         Social Justice and Middle Class Reformers

•Reading: Steven Mintz, Moralists and Modernizers: America’s Pre-Civil War Reformers

Post Discussion to Blackboard by 9:30AM: How did various middle class reformers approach the issue of social justice? Assess their reform efforts.



Fri., Oct. 9:              Individual Conferences on Primary Sources for Project

Week 7

Wed., Oct. 14:       Workshop on Primary Sources for Project (Meeting until 3:45PM. Be sure to check out Dr. Sandra Herbert’s talk at 4:00PM on “Darwin and Lincoln” at the Library Gallery).
Post Discussion to Blackboard by 5:00PM Monday!!: Post transcribed versions of your best primary source material. Include a brief essay that introduces us to the documents and alerts the class to the issues you would like us to consider.  (It’s ok to abridge the documents if only part of that document applies to your project). 


Fri., Oct. 9:              Individual Conferences on Primary Sources for Project


Week 8

Wed., Oct. 21:        Slavery, Slave Resistance, and Social Justice


•Reading: Norrece T. Jones Jr., Born a Child of Freedom, Yet a Slave: Mechanisms of Control and Strategies of Resistance in Antebellum South Carolina


Post Discussion to Blackboard by 9:30AM: Assess the efforts of slaves to obtain social justice in antebellum South Carolina


Week 9

Wed., Oct. 28:        Abolitionism and Social Justice:


•Reading: READ AROUND  (choose one of the following)



Post Discussion to Blackboard by 2:00PM: Analyze you reading as it relates to social justice. I’ll leave the focus of your posting open, but it may be most useful to focus on abolitionist goals and the effectiveness of the strategies and tactics they used to obtain social justice for slaves (and, in some cases, free Blacks as well).

Week 10

Wed., Nov. 4:         Workshop on Drafts of the Project (Meeting until 3:45PM).
Post Discussion to Blackboard by 5:00PM Monday!!: Post the rough draft of the analytical piece of your project, whether it is an introduction to the documents for a teaching or web-based project, a prospectus for your masters thesis, or whatever form the final project will take.  I expect the drafts to be lengthy (i.e. more than a few quickly scribbled paragraphs). And I expect them to weave the secondary-source historiography into your project. Although this is a rough draft—which means I anticipate the drafts being incomplete, with some sections in little more than outline form—I also want to see that you’ve made some serious progress and that you’ve at least taken the time organize your ideas in the more finished sections and to polish the writing.


Fri., Nov. 6:             Individual Conferences on Primary Sources for Project

Week 11

Wed., Nov. 11:       Indian Removal and Social Justice


• Reading: Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians

Post Discussion to Blackboard by 2:00PM: Assess Indian Removal in terms of social justice. Why did the proponents of Native American rights and Indian resistance fail? Could they have done anything differently to have improved the end result?

Week 12    

Wed., Nov. 18:       Western Expansion and Social Justice:


•Reading: READ AROUND  (choose one of the following)



Post Discussion to Blackboard by 9:30AM: This book list covers a wide variety of topics the link social justice with western expansion. As a result, you’re free to relate your reading to social justice in any way you see fit.


Week 13

Wed., Nov. 25:       Individual Conferences about papers


Fri., Nov. 27:           THANKSGIVING BREAK (No Class)


Week 14                            

Wed., Dec. 2:          Race and Social Justice
•Reading: READ AROUND  (choose one of the following)


Post Discussion to Blackboard by 2:00PM: What did your reading reveal about the relationships between social justice and race (and whatever intersections there may have been with other factors like class or gender)?


Fri., Dec. 4:             Individual Project Conferences


Week 15

Wed., Dec. 9:         Project Presentations



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