Draft Syllabus: The US and the World in the Long 1960s

Adam Tomasi's picture

In the spirit of knowledge-sharing, I would like to share the draft syllabus that I put together last Fall for an undergraduate "US and the World" course. The syllabus was an assignment for the "Teaching Practicum" course I took in my second year of the World History PhD program at Northeastern University. I've omitted the introductory text (such as class policies) and included below the readings and assignments I devised for each week. 

If you would recommend any readings to add to this syllabus, please reply! I had only organized assigned readings for twelve weeks when a semester typically runs for about sixteen weeks, so I have a four week-sized openness to suggestions.

- Adam Tomasi, World History PhD Student at Northeastern

Week 1: What is the “long sixties”?


Required reading:

Arthur Marwick. “The Cultural Revolution of the Long Sixties: Voices of Reaction, Protest, and Permeation.” The International History Review 27:4, December 2005.




  • Choose two modules in this digital chapter, “America in Ferment: The Tumultuous 1960s,” from the University of Houston’s Digital History Project (https://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/era.cfm?eraID=17&smtID=2). For example, you can choose “Bombingham” and “The Civil Rights Movement Moves North,” or “The Youth Revolt” and “Ralph Nader and the Consumer Movement.” Get creative with the modules you choose (that is, if one is about civil rights, the other does not have to be).


  • Write one-page, single-spaced, about the two modules you chose, and answer the following questions: Without consulting other sources, how would you argue for the significance of the topics in your modules for world history, not just United States history? How does the UH Digital History Project’s interpretation of events in your modules confirm or challenge Marwick’s interpretation of the long 1960s?


Week 2: The Warren Court, 1954-1969


Required reading:

Mary L. Dudziak. “Brown as a Cold War Case.” The Journal of American History 91:1, June 2004.

Charles J. Ogletree Jr. “All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education.” Montana Law Review 66:2, Summer 2005.

Alexander Tsesis. “The Warren Court’s Achievements.” We Shall Overcome: A History of Civil Rights and the Law. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2008. Pgs. 251-279.




  • Pick any of the SCOTUS cases referenced in the readings besides Brown v. Board of Education and search it on the Oyez multimedia database of Supreme Court cases (https://www.oyez.org/). Read the section on the “Facts of the Case,” the “Question,” and the “Conclusion.” Then, go to the link that says “View Case,” and read the majority opinion and one dissenting opinion of the case.


  • Write one-and-a-half pages, single-spaced, about the main arguments of the opinions, and answer this question: If we accept Dudziak’s reasoning for interpreting Brown v. Board of Education as a “Cold War case,” could the case you chose have also been a Cold War case? Why or why not?


Week 3: Civil Rights, Internationalism, and The Security State

Required Reading:

Cary Fraser. “Crossing the Color Line in Little Rock: The Eisenhower Administration and the Dilemma of Race for U.S. Foreign Policy.” Diplomatic History 24:2, Spring 2000


David K. Johnson. The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004 (for Johnson, read Introduction and Chapter 6: ““Let’s Clean House”: The Eisenhower Security Program”).





  • In July, Eisenhower argues against sending troops to enforce school desegregation, but on September 24, 1957 he sent the military to enforce the integration of Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas. Write one page, single-spaced, in response to these questions: Were Eisenhower’s positions in July and September inconsistent? How does a president who originally said court-ordered school integration went “too far, too fast” decide in favor of swift federal integration on civil rights?

Week 4: Nuclear Weapons and Disarmament Activism in the US and UK


Required Readings:

Jodi Burkett. “Direct Action and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 1958-62.” In: Crowson N., Hilton M., McKay J. (eds.), NGOs in Contemporary Britain. London: Palgrave Macmillan. 2009.


Mark Eastwood. “Anti-Nuclear Activism and Electoral Politics in the 1963 Test Ban Treaty.” Diplomatic History 44:1, January 2020.


Michael Frey. “The International Peace Movement.” Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth (eds.), 1968 in Europe: A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-1977. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.


Gretchen Heefner. The Missile Next Door: The Minuteman in the American Heartland. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012. (Read Introduction and Chapter 2: “Selling Deterrence”).





  • We will watch Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb (1964) the last thirty-minutes of Wednesday’s class and the rest of it Thursday’s class (you will be let out early after the movie’s completion on Thursday). Your assignment is to write a two-page, double-spaced review of the movie’s political argument, and whether you agree with Lowery’s argument for the value of teaching this film in a classroom.


Week 5: JFK and Lyndon Johnson

Required reading:


Peter Feuerherd. “How the Bay of Pigs Invasion Changed JFK.” JSTOR Daily. April 11, 2019, https://daily.jstor.org/how-the-bay-of-pigs-invasion-changed-jfk/


Elizabeth Hinton. From the War on Poverty to the War on Crime: The Making of Mass Incarceration in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2016. (Read “Introduction: Origins of Mass Incarceration” and Chapter 2: “Law and Order in the Great Society”).


Julian Zelizer. The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society. New York: Penguin Books, 2016. (Read “The Challenges of a Liberal Presidency” and “The Fabulous Eighty-Ninth Congress”)



  • Read Martin Luther King Jr., “A Bold Design for a New South,” The Nation, March 30, 1963 and Martin Luther King Jr., “John F. Kennedy,” Transition 15 (1964).
  • In the first article, MLK is very critical of the Kennedy Administration’s token gestures on civil rights and failure to rectify systemic injustice, but in the second article MLK argues that JFK’s legacy should inspire political commitments to civil rights after the tragedy of the assassination. Write a single-spaced, one-page paper in response to these questions: How does King navigate the nuances of praise and honest criticism for Kennedy? What was the role of audience (shaped by the platforms publishing the articles) and larger circumstances in influencing King’s assessments of the president?


Week 6: Civil Rights and Internationalism


Kevin Gaines. “The Civil Rights Movement in World Perspective.” OAH Magazine of History 21:1, January 2007.


Maria Hohn and Martin Klimke. A Breath of Freedom: The Civil Rights Struggle, African American GIs, and Germany. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. (PAGES AND CHAPTERS TBD)


Belinda Robnett, “African American Women in the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965: Gender, Leadership, and Micromobilization.” American Journal of Sociology 101:6, May 1996.


Brian Ward. “A King in Newcastle: Martin Luther King, Jr. and British Race Relations, 1967-1968.” The Georgia Historical Quarterly 79:3, Fall 1995.




  • Read the synopses on Britain’s Campaign Against Racial Discrimination (CARD) and the Race Relations Act of 1968, and listen to the oral history interviews with Nicholas Deakin.




  • Write a single-spaced, one-page response to these questions:
    • After you listened to Deakin’s recollections of CARD and civil rights activism, what are advantages and disadvantages that you would anticipate in the use of oral history?
    • What are some advantages of transnational history (as opposed to international history) for interpreting the civil rights movement?


Week 7: SDS and the New Left


Martin Klimke. The Other Alliance: Student Protest in West Germany and the United States in the Global Sixties. Princeton University Press, 2010. (Read Introduction and Chapter 2: “Between Berkeley and Berlin, Frankfurt and San Francisco: The Networks and Nexus of Transnational Protest”)


Paul Lyons. “The Old Left and the 1960s.” The People of This Generation: The Rise and Fall of the New Left in Philadelphia. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003.


John McMillian. ““Our Founder, the Mimeograph Machine”: Participatory Democracy in Students for a Democratic Society's Print Culture.” Journal for the Study of Radicalism 2:2, Fall 2008.


Blake Slonecker. “The Columbia Coalition: African Americans, New Leftists, and Counterculture at the Columbia University Protest of 1968.” Journal of Social History 41:4, Summer 2008.





Week 8: The Vietnam War and the Anti-War Movement


Jessica M. Frazier. Women’s Antiwar Diplomacy during the Vietnam War Era. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2017 (Read Introduction, Chapter Two: “Strengthening Channels of Communication, 1968-1970,” Chapter Three: “Developing “Third World” Feminist Networks, 1970.”)


Joel Lefkowitz. “Movement Outcomes and Movement Decline: The Vietnam War and the Antiwar Movement.” New Political Science 27:1, 2005.


Nick Thomas. “Protests Against the Vietnam War in 1960s Britain: The Relationship between Protesters and the Press.” Contemporary British History 22:3, 2008.




Week 9: The Global 1968


Timothy Scott Brown. “United States of Amnesia? 1968 in the USA.” Ingo Cornils (ed.), Memories of 1968: International Perspectives (Peter Lang, 2010), http://www.timothyscottbrown.org/united-states-of-amnesia.html


Holger Nehring. “Great Britain.” Martin Klimke and Joachim Scharloth (eds.), 1968 in Europe: A History of Protest and Activism, 1956-1977. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.


Kristin Ross. May ’68 and Its Afterlives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002). (Read Introduction and Chapter 2)


Week 10: Diverse Social Justice Movements


Lauren Araiza. “"In Common Struggle against a Common Oppression": The United Farm Workers and the Black Panther Party, 1968-1973,” The Journal of African-American History 94:2, Spring 2009.


Simon Hall. “Gay Liberation and The Spirit of ’68.” Martin Halliwell and Nick Witham (eds.), Reframing 1968: American Politics, Protest and Identity. Edinburgh University Press, 2018.


Troy Johnson. Red Power: The Native American Civil Rights Movement (Infobase Publishing, 2009). (Read pages 28 to 81)


Kristina Schulz. “Feminist Echoes of 1968: Women’s Movements in Europe and the United States.” Ingrid Gilcher-Holtey (ed.), A Revolution of Perception? Consequences and Echoes of 1968. Berghahn Books, 2014.


Week 11: Radical Vanguards and Urban Rebels


Timothy Scott Brown. “The Sixties in the City: Avant-gardes and Urban Rebels in New York, London, and West Berlin.” Journal of Social History 46:4, Summer 2013.


Sean Malloy. Out of Oakland: Black Panther Party Internationalism During the Cold War. Cornell University Press, 2017. (Read Chapter 4: ““I Prefer Panthers to Pigs”: Transnational and International Connections, 1968-1969,” and Chapter 6: ““Gangster Cigarettes” and “Revolutionary Intercommunalism”: Diverging Directions in Oakland and Algiers, 1970-1971.”)


Jeremy Varon. Bringing the War Home: The Weather Underground, the Red Army Faction, and Revolutionary Violence in the Sixties and Seventies. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. (Read Introduction and Chapter 1: ““Agents of Necessity”: Weatherman, the Red Army Faction, and the Turn to Violence.”)


Week 12: Pop Culture and Counterculture


Arthur Marwick. “Youth Culture and the Cultural Revolution of the Long Sixties.” Axel Schildt and Detlef Siegfried (eds.), Between Marx and Coca-Cola: Youth Cultures in Changing European Societies, 1960-1980. Berghahn Books, 2006.


Jeremi Suri. “The Rise and Fall of an International Counterculture, 1960-1975.” Daniel J. Sherman, Ruud van Dijk, Jasmine Alinder, A. Aneesh (eds.), The Long 1968: Revisions and New Perspectives. Indiana University Press, 2013.


Nadya Zimmerman. Counterculture Kaleidoscope: Musical and Cultural Perspectives on Late Sixties San Francisco. University of Michigan Press, 2008. (Read Chapter One: “Refusing to Play, Pluralism, and Anything Goes: Defining the Counterculture” and Chapter Six: “Helter Skelter: Lessons from the End of the Counterculture.”)