The Incompatibility of the American Dream and (Takaki’s) Grand Narrative

The exam consists of a series of short and longer essays.
4 short answers (about 1-2 paragraphs)

  • you have a choice of five
  • The short essays are directly taken from the red terms at the beginning of each lecture powerpoint.
  • They are like identifications but in addition to telling me what the term means you should write a paragraph explaining why it’s important and connect it to its historical context. For example if I ask you about Lyndon Johnson I’m not looking for his biography paraphrased from wikipedia (adamantly NO). Rather, connect him to some of the terms and themes of this course such as the Civil Rights Movement and faith in government to solve social problems, affirmative action, the Vietnam War, the transformation of the Democratic Party etc. You don’t have to cover everything of course, but again, I’m not looking for facts about LBJ’s life you read on the internet but rather his importance as a figure as we’ve discussed it in this course (in lectures, forums, documents, and the textbook).
  • Each short essay is worth 25 points.

2 long essays (4-6 paragraphs)

  • You have a choice of 3 and need to write 2.
  • A good essay will include references to documents we’ve read though you are NOT expected to quote them directly like in a formal paper. So for example, if you are talking about the the backlash of the 1920s refer to Hiram Evans as well as the congressional debate over the immigration laws we covered that week.
  • Each long essay is worth 50 points.

DO NOT USE OUTSIDE SOURCES. It’s a plagiarism trap. Just use your documents, powerpoints, and textbook to answer the questions. This is an EXAM not a formal paper. You are not expected to do outside research. Just answer the questions as if you were in class taking a 3 hour final exam. I know this will probably take you longer than 3 hours since you are able to use your materials but it really shouldn’t take you more than 5 or 6 at the very most or you’re doing more than you should and getting too caught up in details. This is NOT a paper but should be treated like an in-class bluebook exam–the difference is you have access to the book, documents, and your notes. There is no time limit–the exam is not timed. But you do have to put aside the time to complete the exam between Monday morning and Thursday night. You will upload your final exam to Canvas as a SINGLE file (pdf or word) in the same way you uploaded your papers. Late exams will have a stiff paper penalty and you only have 24 hours of the semester after the due date to turn it in anyway so get it in by Thursday at 11:59 pm.


Short Answers: Answer FOUR of the following questions in about a robust paragraph. (25 points each)

  1. The Wedge: How is the “divide and conquer” strategy practiced by the owners of the Hawaiian sugar plantations part of the Takaki’s larger “wedge argument,” originally presented when he discussed Bacon’s Rebellion? Why (or how) was it successful? Please be specific.

  1. Becoming American: According to Takaki, Eastern European Jews went through a process of “purification” and to become American meant to acquire “civility.” What is civility in this context and how is this similar to the experience of other immigrant groups such as the Irish?

  1. The Incompatibility of the American Dream and (Takaki’s) Grand Narrative: Segregated schools were not only instruments of an ideological vision, as in the Jim Crow South, but served to train “obedient laborers” in the South, West, and Southwest of the country. “You people are here to dig ditches.” How does the first-generation demand for education, so inherent to the American Dream, challenge (or threaten) the Grand Narrative?

  1. Backlash I: The second KKK (ca. 1915-1944) presented itself as the protector of “Americanism” and was a mainstream organization that controlled municipal governments from Terra Haute, Indiana to Anaheim, California. How did it define “American” and what were some of the components of this organization BEYOND the obvious connection to white supremacy and the first KKK? What long-standing American movements or traditions were championed by the second KKK? (Hint: in my lecture I argued that there were 6 distinct movements or groups in American history that were blended together in the second KKK—you do NOT have to discuss all of them but at least two beyond white supremacy should be a minimum).


  1. World War II: Almost every chapter in Takaki’s “From a Different Mirror” tells the story of a different ethnic group during different historical periods. However, World War I gets its own chapter and he covers multiple ethnic groups in that chapter. Why do you think he chose to do that and what does it tell you about his larger argument about the role of World War II in American history told from a different mirror?

Long Essay: Choose TWO of the following essays. 3-5 paragraphs. 50 points each.

  1. Immigration in the Twentieth Century

Immigration was not a major prerogative of the federal government until the 1880s when New York state appealed on the grounds that it could no longer handle the numbers of immigrants arriving at its shores. Before 1882, there were no significant legal restrictions on becoming a naturalized American and hundreds and thousands of immigrants arrived between 1889 (when Ellis Island opened) and 1921. The open-door policy changed, however, in the wake of the First World War with the Immigration Restriction Act of 1921 and the Emergency Quota Act of 1924. Though there were various reforms in the 1940s and 1950s, the 1920s status quo on immigration was not significantly transformed until the Hart-Cellar Act of 1965. Write an essay in which you discuss the ramifications of these TWO 20th century transformations in immigration policy (that is 1921-24 on the on hand and 1965 on the other hand). How did they affect arriving immigrants as well as non-immigrant Americans? Note, you MUST address both the 1920s and 1960s changes in legal immigration.

  1. The Fourteenth Amendment, American Citizenship, and Due Process

The Fourteenth Amendment and its demand for due process and equal protection to all American citizens emerged out of Reconstruction and the need to protect freedmen and integrate them in to the legal framework of the country. However, it would have far-reaching ramifications well beyond Reconstruction and continues to be central to the culture wars of today. (For example, is a Christian baker violating the Equal Protection Clause when he refuses to bake a wedding cake for a gay wedding). Write an essay in which you discuss how the Fourteenth Amendment was utilized and interpreted to expand the rights of some or all Americans in all three of the following areas:

  • Immigration and Naturalization (Asian-Americans, Native-Americans)
  • The Civil Rights Movement (African-Americans, Latinos)
  • Social legislation (hint: right to privacy)

3. Economics and Race Intersectionality
How does the issue of race intersect with to the two major economic transformations of the 20th century in the United States of America? Write an essay in which you address the issue of race in
a. The New Deal and the shift to Keynesian (New Deal) economics that characterizes the period from about 1933 to the late 1960s/early 1970s.
b. The Conservative (or Reagan) Revolution from the mid-1970s to the present which returned to a less interventionist government in the economy. .
white america 1950s.jpg dixieland.jpg
Here are some issues you may wish to address in your answer. You do not HAVE to address any or all of these but you do need to be specific and address BOTH eras as elucidated above:

  • “White” affirmative action (during the New Deal and 1950s)
  • De-industrialization and Suburbanizations
  • Race Riots and Urban Decline
  • Dixiecrats (1948-1968)
  • Affirmative Action (esp. LBJ 1965 speech to Howard University)
  • The Southern Strategy and Dog Whistle Politics
  • Mass Incarceration and the Drug War

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