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HIST 3401 | American Pluralism to 1877: (Reischel): Syllabus

Course Information


Class Structure and Attendance

Class will meet once a week on Tuesday from 6:30- 9:15 pm.  Because of the limited number of scheduled classes, I will take regular attendance. Attendance is mandatory and more than three (3) unexcused absences will result in failure. If you are unable to attend class for any reason, please email me beforehand. The first half of the class will be dedicated to a lecture on the “Text Readings.” The second half of class will be a group discussion on the significance and meaning of the “Document Readings.”  Everyone is expected to participate in this section.

Any quizzes and/or classroom activities cannot be made up.  All assignments will be posted on Blackboard in a timely manner.  I will also go over assignments in class.  You will need to sign up for Blackboard (start at the CUNY Portal: Check Blackboard’s “Announcements” module for updated schedules and other important information.  All written assignments are to be submitted via Blackboard by 12:00 pm (noon) on the day of class (unless otherwise noted).  Computers and tablets will NOT be allowed to be in use during the lecture section of the “Text Readings.”  However, they will be allowed for use during the group section during the group discussion.

Please note that the instructor reserves to right to make changes to the syllabus, including project due dates and test dates when unforeseen circumstances occur. These changes will be announced as early as possible so that students can adjust their schedules



Quizzes, Think Pieces, & Class Participation: 30%

Short Papers: 25%

Midterm: 25%

Final Paper: 20%


Class participation will be determined by a demonstration of understanding and engagement with the reading materials and vocal contribution in class discussions. We will discuss all readings within a group setting.  Please be prepared to participate.


Think Pieces

There will a series of short papers (Think Piece) due over the semester (300-500 words/
1-2 pages). A Think Piece is a well written, strongly supported, sophisticated, and
interesting response that shows you read the entire assigned reading (s), grasped its
main points, and took the time to organize your thoughts before answering the
assigned question(s). As the semester progresses, the think piece makes keen links
between course topics and documents. The Think Piece is marked by superb prose
and flawless punctuation and spelling. You are required to write at least six (6)
think pieces over the semester. These written pieces will be short essay answers to
specific questions that I have posed about the readings.

At the conclusion of your prose you must skip a line and then pose one question prompted by that day’s
readings. You do not need to use footnotes in these assignments. These short assignments will be graded on a scale of 0-5 (with 5 the highest mark). Together, with your attendance/participation and quizzes, they will account for 30%
of your overall grade.


Here is a general grading guide for think pieces:
5 points: You are doing A work.
4 points: Think Piece makes some very good points but perhaps lacks logical
construction, doesn’t answer the assigned question in a full or compelling manner,
neglected to pose a compelling question of your own, or has some minor problems
with its prose, punctuation, and/or spelling. If you receive a 4, you are doing around
B+ work.
3 points: Think Piece offers a surface-level answer to the assigned question, perhaps
lacks structure, clarity, or compelling evidence, or is marked by too many
grammatical and/or punctuation errors. If you receive a 3, you are doing around
B/B- work.
2 points: Think piece is vague, doesn’t explicitly answer the assigned question, or
suggests to the reader that you did not leave yourself enough time to do a good job.
An otherwise solid think piece that possesses multiple grammatical and punctuation
errors will receive a 2, as well. If you receive a 2, you are doing around C+ work.
1 point: Think piece reads like a hastily written response that suggests you did not
carefully consider the assigned readings. A think piece that earns a 1 suggests C-/D+
0 points: Think Piece shows little or no evidence that you have read or considered
the assigned document. If you receive a 0, this is F work.


Argument Essays

There are 3 short papers (3-5 pages) due over the course of the semester (please see the Class Schedule below for more details). A final research paper based upon Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad will be due at the end of the semester and will count as your Final Exam. Late assignments will be marked down every day they are late. All citations need to be footnotes (NOT endnotes) and in the Chicago Manual of Style.  Please use this resource to cite sources:

I grant an incomplete only if there are extraordinary circumstances, and
arrangements are made in advance. I will grade on the standard scale (100-90= A+ to
A-, for consistently excellent work; 89-80= B+ to B-, for good, very competent work; 79-
70= C+ to C-, for satisfactory work; 69-60= D+ to D-, for passable work; 59-0=F, for
unacceptable university-level work).


CUNY Policy on Academic Integrity

The faculty and administration of Brooklyn College support an environment free from
cheating and plagiarism. Each student is responsible for being aware of what constitutes
cheating and plagiarism and for avoiding both. The complete text of the CUNY Academic Integrity Policy and the Brooklyn College procedure for implementing that policy can be found at this site:

If a faculty member suspects a violation of academic integrity and, upon investigation, confirms that violation, or if the student admits the violation, the faculty member MUST report the violation. Brooklyn College offers many academic, counseling, and campus services, including the Learning Center (located in 1300 Boylan Hall), which is a peer tutoring and writing center. Please use these services as needed to enhance your educational experience. And if you have any concerns about your assignments, the course, or your reading and writing skills, please do not hesitate to talk to me.


Brooklyn College’s Center for Student Disability Services

In order to receive disability-related academic accommodations students must first be
registered with the Center for Student Disability Services (CSDS). Students who have a
documented disability or suspect they may have a disability are invited to set up an
appointment with the Director of the Center for Student Disability Services, Ms. Valerie
Stewart-Lovell at 718-951-5538. If you have already registered with the CSDS please
provide your professor with the course accommodation form and discuss your specific
accommodation with him/her as soon as possible and at an appropriate time


Online Readings

All course material and assignments will be located on the class website.  Please bookmark it:

“Text Readings” can be found at

“Document Readings” can be found at



Frederick Douglas, Narrative on the Life of Frederick Douglas, An American Slave (any version is acceptable)

Jill Lepore, New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan (New York: Knopf, 2005)

Anthony F.C. Wallace, The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians (New York: Hill and Wang, 1993)

Colson Whitehead, The Underground Railroad (New York: Doubleday, 2016)

Class Schedule

January 28, 2019: Syllabus/ Introduction


February 5, 2019: Origins of the Atlantic World, 10,000 BC – 1550 AD

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 1 & 2

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 1 & 2


February 5, 2019: Colliding Cultures, Colonial Outposts: 1550 - 1650

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 3

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 3 & 4


*** February 12, 2019: No Class***


February 19, 2019: Colonial Society & The Road to Revolution

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 4

Writing Assignment Due 2/19, Paper #1:Write a book review (3-4 pages, double-spaced, 12-pt. font, Times New Roman) on New York Burning: Liberty, Slavery, and Conspiracy in Eighteenth-Century Manhattan by Jill Lepore. This review should be a critical commentary NOT a summary of the plot. The purpose of a review is to make an argument. This is an opportunity for you to have a conversation with the author and give your opinion on their work. An “argument” does not mean you have to disagree with the author’s conclusions. You may agree or disagree (or both) with the author’s style, structure, viewpoint, or use of sources — but you need to explain why you agree or disagree (or both) with them and use specific examples from the book to bolster your argument. As for the structure of the book review, the writing center at UNC-Chapel Hill recommends that a reviewer first (1) give “a concise summary of the content. This includes a relevant description of the topic as well as its overall perspective, argument, or purpose. Second (2), and more importantly, a review offers a critical assessment of the content. This involves your reactions to the work under review: what strikes you as noteworthy, whether or not it was effective or persuasive, and how it enhanced your understanding of the issues at hand. Finally (3), in addition to analyzing the work, a review often suggests whether or not the audience would appreciate it.” I expect to see all three (3) of these aspects in your paper. Cite all quotations in the proper format.  You can find examples of book reviews in the NY Times.


February 26, 2019: A Revolutionary Nation, 1776-1789

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 5

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 5


March 5, 2019: A New Nation in a Revolutionary World

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 6

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 6


March 12, 2019: American People on the Move, 1789- 1814

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 7

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 7


*** March 19, 2019: Midterm***

March 19, 2019: Jacksonian Democracy

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 9

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 9


March 26, 2019: Market Revolutions: “almost universal ambition to get forward

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 8 & 11

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 8 & 11

Writing Assignment Due 3/26, Paper #2Write a book review (4-5 pages, double-spaced, 12-pt. font, Times New Roman) on The Long, Bitter Trail: Andrew Jackson and the Indians by Anthony F.C. Wallace. In your analysis, please touch upon these three questions:

1. What were the economic and political forces driving the hunger for Indian land in the south?

2. What was Andrew Jackson’s role in the Removal Crisis?

3. Prior to Andrew Jackson’s presidency (1828-36), Wallace argues in Ch. 2, there was a “deep division in the nation regarding the proper Indian policy of the states and the federal government” (p. 48). What contradictory ideas and policies were Americans pursuing before 1828? 


April 2, 2019: New Boundaries, New Rules

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 12

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 12


April 9, 2019: Slave Narratives

Text Reading: Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, complete

Document Reading: "T'was My Object to Carry Terror and Devastation Wherever We Went": Nat Turner "Confesses," Virginia, 1831

Writing Assignment Due 4/9, Paper #3:: Write a brief essay (4-5 pages, double-spaced, 12-pt. font, Times New Roman) comparing and contrasting the Frederick Douglas and Nat Turner slave narratives. Select two aspects of the narratives that are similar and/or different in at least one meaningful way. Please touch upon the intended audience for each work. Are they stylistically similar? What messages were the individual authors attempting to convey? Do you believe they were successful in their intentions? Why or why not?


April 16, 2019: A House Dividing

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 13

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 13


*** April 23, 2019: NO CLASS***


April 30, 2018: The Civil War

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 14

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 14


May 14, 2019: Reconstructing America, 1865-1877

Text Reading: American Yawp, Chapter 15

Document Reading: American Yawp Reader, Chapter 15


May 21, 2019: Final Paper Due (8-10 Pages)