KC Johnson

Modern US (spring 2022)

This course examines U.S. history since World War II, with a focus on events in politics, public policy, and the law. Topics include the development of the Cold War; the Red Scare; the civil rights movements; the elections of the 1960s; the Americanization of the Vietnam War; the collapse of the New Deal political order; the decline of the 1970s American economy; the age of Reagan; the end of the Cold War; 1990s partisanship; the causes and effects of 9/11; and the recent political developments.

All documents and other primary sources, along with articles, will be e-mailed.


  • Exams (midterm and final): 55 percent
  • Group oral presentation: 35 percent
  • Participation: 10 percent

My Contact Information:


Week One: The Truman Administration

  • Robert Mickey, “The Beginning of the End for Authoritarian Rule in America: Smith v. Allwright and the Abolition of the White Primary in the Deep South, 1944–1948,” Studies in American Political Development (2008).
  • Richard Fried, “‘Operation Polecat’: Thomas E. Dewey, the 1948 Election, and the Origins of McCarthyism,” Journal of Policy History (2010).

Week 2: The 1950s

  • Fred I. Greenstein, “Eisenhower as an Activist President: A Look at New Evidence,” Political Science Quarterly
  • Anthony Badger, “The South Confronts the Court: The Southern Manifesto of 1956,” Journal of Policy History
  • Michael Klarman, “Brown vs. Board of Education: Law or Politics?,” UVA Public Law Research Paper

Week 3: The Kennedy Era

  • Laura Gifford, “’Dixie is no longer in the bag’: South Carolina Republicans and the Election of 1960,” Journal of Policy History
  • Lawrence McAndrews, “Beyond Appearances: Kennedy, Congress, Religion, and Federal Aid to Education,” Presidential Studies Quarterly (1991).
  • David Coleman, “The Missiles of November, December, January, February . . . : The Problem of Acceptable Risk in the Cuban Missile Crisis Settlement,” Journal of Cold War Studies (2007).

Week 4: LBJ Takes Charge

  • Robert Caro, “The Transition,” New Yorker.
  • Hugh Davis Graham, “The Origins of Affirmative Action: Civil Rights and the Regulatory State,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
  • Rick Perlstein, “Thunder on the Right: The Roots of Conservative Victory in the 1960s,” OAH Magazine of History (2006)

Week 5: The Demise of the New Deal Coalition

  • Kenneth O’Reilly, “The FBI and the Politics of the Riots, 1964-1968, ” Journal of American History
  • Michael Flamm, “‘Law and Order’ at Large: The New York Civilian Review Board Referendum of 1966 and the Crisis of Liberalism,” The Historian (2002).
  • Dan T. Carter, “Legacy of Rage: George Wallace and the Transformation of American Politics, “ The Journal of Southern History

Week 6: Nixon & Political Culture

  • Kyle Longley, “Target Number One: The Nixon Administration and Foreign Policy Issues in the Efforts to Unseat Senator Albert Gore, Sr. in 1970,” Diplomatic History (2004).
  • Beverly Gage, “Deep Throat, Watergate, and the Bureaucratic Politics of the FBI,” Journal of Policy History (2012).
  • David Thelen, “Introduction: Remembering the Discovery of the Watergate Tapes,” Journal of American History

Week 7: Midterm

Week 8: Political Transformations in the 1970s

  • Donald Critchow and Cynthia Stachecki, “The Equal Rights Amendment Reconsidered: Politics, Policy, and Social Mobilization in a Democracy,” Journal of Policy History
  • Daniel Williams, “The GOP’s Abortion Strategy: Why Pro-Choice Republicans Became Pro-Life in the 1970s,” Journal of Policy History (2011).

Week 9: The Reagan Era

  • Jerome L. Himmelstein and James A. McRae, Jr., “Social Conservatism, New Republicans, and the 1980 Election,” The Public Opinion Quarterly

Week 10: Transitioning from Cold War Politics

  • Stephen Borrelli, “Finding the Third Way: Bill Clinton, the DLC, and the Democratic Platform of 1992,” Journal of Policy History
  • WJ Rorabaugh, “Critical Perspectives: Did Prosperity Contribute to the South’s Abandonment of the Democratic Party?,” Journal of Policy History
  • Norman Graebner, “The End of Liberalism,” Journal of Policy History

Week 11: Political Tumult

  • Wm. Gormley, Death of American Virtue, (chaps 1-6).
  • Benjamin Highton, “Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and the 1998 House Elections,” The Public Opinion Quarterly
  • Milkis & Rhodes, George W. Bush, the Party System, and American Federalism,” Publius (2007)

Week 12: The Obama Years

  • Kevin Donnelly and David Rochefort, “The Lessons of ‘Lesson Drawing’: How the Obama Administration Attempted to Learn from Failure of the Clinton Health Plan,” Journal of Policy History (2012).

Week 13: The Trump Era

readings TBA

Week 14: Group presentations

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