Postings to this page will be made daily. The Possible Essay Questions are designed to familiarize you with the KEY ELEMENTS of each topic so that you will be prepared for essay questions that may come up on the mid-term and final exams. Other postings are considered VERY salient to your American History studies and you are definitely encouraged to become VERY familiar with them.





n1.    What were the causes of the Great Depression?
n2.    What was FDR’s approach in dealing with the Depression during his first term?
n3.    Compare and contrast the First and Second New Deals. Which had more far-reaching success? Why?
n4.    What role did the New Deal play in the lives of American minorities? Did it have lasting impact on our society?


Margin buying is buying securities with some of one's own cash together with cash borrowed from a broker. This has the effect of magnifying any profit or loss made on the securities. The securities serve as collateral for the loan. The net value, i.e. the difference between the value of the securities and the loan, is initially equal to the own cash used. This difference has to stay above a minimum margin requirement. This is to protect the broker against a fall in the value of the securities to the point that they no longer cover the loan.

In the 1920s, margin requirements were loose. In other words, brokers required investors to put in very little of their own money. When stock markets plummeted, the net value of the positions rapidly fell below the minimum margin requirements, forcing investors to sell their positions. This was one important factor contributing to the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which in turn contributed to the Great Depression.


Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) was the new name given by the Roosevelt Administration to the "Emergency Relief Administration" set up by Herbert Hoover in 1932. It was established as a result of the Federal Emergency Relief Act. The Federal Emergency Relief Act was the first relief operation under the New Deal, and was headed by Harry L. Hopkins, a New York social worker who was one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's most influential advisers. Hopkins was a believer in relief efforts that emphasized work.

FERA's main goal was alleviating adult unemployment. In order to achieve this goal, FERA provided state assistance for the unemployed and their families. From when it began in May 1933 until when it closed its operations in December, 1935, it gave states and localities $3.1 billion to operate local work projects. FERA provided work for over 20 million people and developed facilities on public lands across the country. Faced with continued high unemployment and concerns for public welfare during the coming winter of 1933-34, FERA instituted the Civil Works Administration (CWA) as a $400 million short-term measure to get people to work. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration was terminated in 1935 and its work taken over by the WPA and the Social Security Board.


The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a work relief program for young men from unemployed families established on March 19, 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in his first hundred days. It was part of the New Deal designed to combat the poverty and unemployment of the Great Depression in the United States. The CCC became one of the most popular New Deal programs among the general public and operated in every state and several territories. The young men went to camps of about 200 men each for six month "periods" where they were paid to do outdoor construction work. The Indian Division was a major relief agency for Indian reservations.


The Civil Works Administration was established by the New Deal during the Great Depression to create jobs for millions of the unemployed. The jobs were to be merely temporary, for the duration of the hard winter. Harry L. Hopkins was put in charge of the organization. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt unveiled the CWA on November 8, 1933.

The CWA was a project created under the FERA, or Federal Emergency Relief Administration. Because the FERA failed to give people jobs, another program was needed and the CWA was set up along with the Civilian Conservation Corps, a.k.a. the CCC.

The CWA created construction jobs, mainly improving or constructing buildings and bridges. It ended on 31 march 1934, under the advice of Lewis Douglas, after costing $200 million a month. So much was spent on this administration because it hired 4 million people and was mostly concerned with paying high wages.

The Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) or Home Owner's Refinancing Act, was a New Deal agency established in 1933 under President Franklin Roosevelt. Its purpose was to refinance homes to prevent foreclosure. It was usually used to extend loans from shorter, expensive payments of 15 year loans to lower payments of 30 year loans. Through its work it granted long term mortgages to over a million people facing the loss of their homes. The HOLC stopped lending in June 1936 by the terms of the HOLC act. HOLC was only applicable to nonfarm homes. HOLC also bailed out mortgage-holding banks. The HOLC was essentially a failure because many homeowners could not pay their mortgages. The HOLC made about one million low-interest loans between June of 1933 and June of 1936.

Marian Anderson (February 27, 1897 April 8, 1993), American contralto. In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall. The District of Columbia Board of Education declined a request to use the auditorium of a white public high school. As a result of the furor which followed, thousands of DAR members, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, resigned.

At the suggestion of Walter White, then-executive secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and with the support of Eleanor Roosevelt, Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes organized an open air concert for Anderson on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The concert, commencing with a dignified and stirring rendition of "America" attracted a crowd of more 75,000 of all colors and was a sensation with a national radio audience.



n1.    What caused the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor? Consider both U.S. and Japanese actions.
n2.    What were the major events in Europe between 1933–1939 that led to the war?
n3.    How did FDR muster U.S. economic and production forces in support of the war?
n4.    How did the war change the role of women and minorities in the United States?


The Quarantine Speech given by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on October 5, 1937 in Chicago calling for an international "quarantine of the aggressor nations" as an alternative to the political climate of American neutrality and isolationism that was prevalent at the time. The speech intensified America's isolationist mood, causing protest by isolationists and foes to intervention. The speech was a response to aggressive actions by Italy and Japan, and suggested the use of economic pressure, a forceful response, but less direct than outright aggression.

During the Cuban missile crisis President John F. Kennedy deployed warships to prevent Soviet delivery of nuclear weapons to Cuba. Kennedy described this measure as a "quarantine" of Cuba rather than a 'blockade', though blockade was a more appropriate term. Kennedy's choice of language was in part intended to resonate with the policy Roosevelt outlined in the Quarantine Speech: a policy of reacting forcefully to external threats but without resort to outright war. Also, a blockade is an act of war.


The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere  was a concept created and promulgated by the government and military of the Empire of Japan which represented the desire to create a self-sufficient "bloc of Asian nations led by the Japanese and free of Western powers". World War II.

The term "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere" is remembered today largely as a front for the Japanese control of occupied countries during World War II, in which puppet governments manipulated local populations and economies for the benefit of Imperial Japan. It was an Imperial Japanese Army concept which originated with General Hachiro Arita, who at the time was minister of foreign affairs and an army ideologist. "Greater East Asia"  was a Japanese term (banned during the post-war occupation) referring to East Asia, Southeast Asia and surrounding areas.


The Wagner-Rogers Bill was proposed United States legislation, which would have had the effect of admitting 20,000 Jewish refugees under the age of 14 to the United States from Nazi Germany. It was rejected by the United States Congress in February 1939.


The Atlantic Charter was negotiated at the Atlantic Conference (codenamed Riviera) by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, aboard warships in a secure anchorage at Naval Station Argentia, Newfoundland, and was issued as a joint declaration on August 14, 1941.
The Atlantic Charter established a vision for a post-World War II world, despite the fact that the United States had yet to enter the war. The participants hoped that the Soviet Union would adhere as well, after having been attacked by Nazi Germany in June 1941 in defiance of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact.

In brief, the nine points of the Atlantic Charter were: After the war.....

  1. No territorial gains were to be sought by the United States or the United Kingdom.
  2. Territorial adjustments must be in accord with wishes of the peoples concerned.
  3. All peoples had a right to self-determination.
  4. Trade barriers were to be lowered.
  5. There was to be global economic cooperation and advancement of social welfare.
  6. freedom from want and fear;
  7. freedom of the seas;
  8. disarmament of aggressor nations, postwar common disarmament
  9. defeat of Germany and other Axis powers



1.    What were the economic, political, and social causes of the Cold War? How did the U.S. and the USSR go from being allies to enemies?

n2.    What was the Marshall Plan? What role did it play in American–Soviet relations?
n3.    Assess Truman’s administration. What were his successes and failures? Was he a good president? Why or why not?
n4.    What caused the Korean War? Why did the United States become involved? Was this consistent with U.S. foreign policy? Explain.
George Frost Kennan (February 16, 1904 March 17, 2005) was an American advisor, diplomat, political scientist, and historian, best known as "the father of containment" and as a key figure in the emergence of the Cold War. He later wrote standard histories of the relations between Russia and the Western powers.

In the late 1940s, his writings inspired the Truman Doctrine and the U.S. foreign policy of "containing" the Soviet Union, thrusting him into a lifelong role as a leading authority on the Cold War. His "Long Telegram" from Moscow in 1946, and the subsequent 1947 article "The Sources of Soviet Conduct" argued that the Soviet regime was inherently expansionist and that its influence had to be "contained" in areas of vital strategic importance to the United States. These texts quickly emerged as foundational texts of the Cold War, expressing the Truman administration's new anti-Soviet Union policy. Kennan also played a leading role in the development of definitive Cold War programs and institutions, most notably the Marshall Plan.

Shortly after Kennan's doctrines had been enshrined as official U.S. policy, he began to criticize the policies that he had seemingly helped launch. By mid-1948, he was convinced that the situation in Western Europe had improved to the point where negotiations could be initiated with Moscow. The suggestion did not resonate within the Truman administration, and Kennan's influence was increasingly marginalized—particularly after Dean Acheson was appointed Secretary of State in 1949. As U.S. Cold War strategy assumed a more aggressive and militaristic tone, Kennan bemoaned what he called a misinterpretation of his thinking.

In 1950, Kennan left the Department of State, except for two brief ambassadorial stints in Moscow and Yugoslavia, and became a leading realist critic of U.S. foreign policy. He continued to be a leading thinker in international affairs as a faculty member of the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton) from 1956 until his death at age 101 in March 2005.


NSC-68 or National Security Council Report 68 was a 58 page classified report issued April 14, 1950 during the presidency of Harry Truman. Written in the formative stages of the Cold War, it has become one of the classic historical documents of the Cold War. NSC-68 would shape government actions in the Cold War for the next 20 years and has subsequently been labeled its "blueprint." Truman officially signed NSC-68 on September 30, 1950. It was declassified in 1977.
NSC-68 would make the case for a US military buildup to confront what it called an enemy "unlike previous aspirants to hegemony. .. animated by a new fanatic faith, antithetical to our own." The Soviet Union and the United States existed in a bi-polar world, in which the Soviets wished to "impose its absolute authority over the rest of the world." This would be a war of ideas in which "the idea of freedom under a government of laws, and the idea of slavery under the grim oligarchy of the "Kremlin" were pitted against each other. Therefore, the US as "the center of power in the free world," should build an international community in which American society would "survive and flourish" and pursue a policy of containment. The document drew from the writings of George F. Kennan, specifically the "long telegram" in 1946 and the X Article. Although Kennan's theory of containment articulated a multifaceted approach for American Foreign Policy to respond to a perceived Soviet threat, NSC-68 drew policies that emphasized military action over diplomatic or otherwise. Kennan's influential telegram advocated a policy of containment towards the Soviet Union. In NSC-68 it can be defined as "a policy of calculated and gradual coercion." That said, the NSC-68 called for significant peacetime military spending, in which the US possessed "superior overall power" and "in dependable combination with other like-minded nations." It calls for a military capable of:
bulletDefending the Western Hemisphere and essential allied areas in order that their war-making capabilities can be developed;
bulletProviding and protecting a mobilization base while the offensive forces required for victory were being built up;
bulletConducting offensive operations to destroy vital elements of the Soviet war-making capacity, and to keep the enemy off balance until the full offensive strength of the United States and its allies can be brought to bear;
bulletDefending and maintain the lines of communication and base areas necessary to the execution of the above tasks; and
bulletProviding such aid to allies as is essential to the execution of their role in the above tasks.

This would cost, by its estimates, a significant portion, perhaps more than the 20% of GNP the United States was already committing. The specific costs were left to subsequent groups in the NSC to analyze and budget.


The Baruch Plan was a proposal by the United States government, written mainly by Bernard Baruch, to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC) in its first meeting in June 1946 to:

a) extend between all nations the exchange of basic scientific information for peaceful ends;

b) implement control of atomic energy to the extent necessary to ensure its use only for peaceful purposes;

c) eliminate from national armaments atomic weapons and all other major weapons adaptable to mass destruction; and

d) establish effective safeguards by way of inspection and other means to protect complying States against the hazards of violations and evasions

The US agreed to turn over all of its weapons on the condition that all other countries pledge not to produce them and agree to an adequate system of inspection. The Soviets rejected this plan on the grounds that the United Nations was dominated by the United States and its allies in Western Europe, and could therefore not be trusted to exercise authority over atomic weaponry in an evenhanded manner. Although the Soviets showed increased interest in the cause of arms control after they became a nuclear power in 1949, and particularly after the death of Stalin in 1953, the issue of the Soviet Union submitting to international inspection was always a thorny one upon which many attempts at nuclear arms control were stalled.

When the Soviet Union refused to sign onto the Baruch Plan, the U.S. embarked on a massive nuclear weapons testing, development, and deployment program.

Bertrand Russell, in his 1961 book Has Man a Future?, described the Baruch plan as follows:

The United States Government ... did attempt ... to give effect to some of the ideas which the atomic scientists had suggested. In 1946, it presented to the world what is now called "The Baruch Plan", which had very great merits and showed considerable generosity, when it is remembered that America still had an unbroken nuclear monopoly. The Baruch Plan proposed an International Atomic Development Authority which was to have a monopoly of mining uranium and thorium, refining the ores, owning materials, and constructing and operating plants necessary for the use of nuclear power. It was suggested that this Authority should be established by the United Nations and that the United States should give it the information of which, so far, America was the sole possessor. Unfortunately, there were features of the Baruch Proposal which Russia found unacceptable, as, indeed, was to be expected. It was Stalin's Russia, flushed with pride in the victory over the Germans, suspicious (not without reason) of the Western Powers, and aware that in the United Nations it could almost always be outvoted. The Baruch plan is often questioned on whether it was a legitimate effort to achieve global cooperation on nuclear control.



n1.    Assess the Eisenhower presidency. What were his accomplishments and failures?
n2.    How did JFK deal with the Soviet Union? Give particular emphasis on the Cuban Missile Crisis.
n3.    How did Ike and JFK deal with the issue of civil rights? Which act/action was more effective? Why?
n4.    Examine JFK’s presidency. Why do some consider him a great president? What were his achievements?


Open Skies Proposal, 1955. The concept of "mutual aerial observation" was initially proposed to Soviet Premier Bulganin at the Geneva Conference of 1955 by President Eisenhower; however, the Soviets promptly rejected the concept and it lay dormant for several years. The treaty was eventually signed as an initiative of President (and former Director of Central Intelligence) George H. W. Bush in 1989. Negotiated by the then-members of NATO and the Warsaw Pact, the agreement was signed in Helsinki, Finland, on March 24, 1992. The United States ratified it in 1993.

The National Defense Education Act (NDEA) was instituted primarily to stimulate the advancement of education in science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages; but it has also provided aid in other areas, including technical education, area studies, geography, English as a second language, counseling and guidance, school libraries and librarianship, and educational media centers. One of its purposes was to keep the United States ahead of the Soviet Union during the space race through education. The Act provides institutions of higher education with 90% of capital funds for low-interest loans to students. NDEA also gives federal support for improvement and change in elementary and secondary education. The Act contains statutory prohibitions of federal direction, supervision, or control over the curriculum, program of instruction, administration, or personnel of any educational institution.


The Peace Corps is an independent United States federal agency. The Peace Corps was established by Executive Order 10924 on March 1, 1961 and authorized by Congress on September 22, 1961 with passage of the Peace Corps Act (Public Law 87-293). The Peace Corps Act declares the purpose of the Peace Corps to be:

“to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps, which shall make available to interested countries and areas men and women of the United States qualified for service abroad and willing to serve, under conditions of hardship if necessary, to help the peoples of such countries and areas in meeting their needs for trained manpower.”

Since 1960, more than 187,000 people have served as Peace Corps Volunteers in 139 countries.


The Alliance for Progress initiated by U.S. President John F. Kennedy in 1961 aimed to establish economic cooperation between North and South America. The aid was intended to counter the perceived emerging communist threat from Cuba to U.S. interests and dominance in the region.

In March 1961, President Kennedy proposed a ten-year plan for Latin America:

  ...we propose to complete the revolution of the Americas, to build a hemisphere where all men can hope for a suitable standard of living and all can live out their lives in dignity and in freedom. To achieve this goal political freedom must accompany material progress...Let us once again transform the American Continent into a vast crucible of revolutionary ideas and efforts, a tribute to the power of the creative energies of free men and women, an example to all the world that liberty and progress walk hand in hand. Let us once again awaken our American revolution until it guides the struggles of people everywhere-not with an imperialism of force or fear but the rule of courage and freedom and hope for the future of man.  

The program was signed at an inter-American conference at Punta del Este, Uruguay, in August 1961. The charter called for:

bulletan annual increase of 2.5% in per capita income,
bullet the establishment of democratic governments,
bullet the elimination of adult illiteracy by 1970
bullet price stability, to avoid inflation or deflation
bullet more equitable income distribution, land reform, and
bullet economic and social planning.

First, the plan called for Latin American countries to pledge a capital investment of $80 billion over 10 years. The United States agreed to supply or guarantee $20 billion within one decade.

Second, Latin American delegates required the participating countries to draw up comprehensive plans for national development. These plans were then to be submitted for approval by an inter-American board of experts.

Third, tax codes had to be changed to demand "more from those who have most" and land reform was to be implemented.




n1.    What is the “Great Society”? Was it successful in its goals for the United States? Does it still exist today? Why or Why not?
n2.    Examine Johnson’s Vietnam policy. Explain why he took the steps he did in the war. Was his policy successful? Why or Why not?
n3.    Examine the youth movement of the late 1960s. What effect did the New Left and the counterculture movement have on American society?
n4.    Evaluate Nixon’s presidency. What were his triumphs? Why did his presidency end in such dishonor?


VISTA or Volunteers in Service to America was created by Lyndon Johnson's Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as the domestic version of the Peace Corps. Initially, the program increased employment opportunities for conscientious people who felt they could contribute tangibly to the War on Poverty. Volunteers served in communities throughout the U.S., focusing on enriching educational programs and vocational training for the nation's underprivileged classes.

VISTA’s legislative purpose, as defined under the Domestic Volunteer Service Act (DVSA) of 1973, is to supplement efforts to fight poverty in low-income communities by engaging Americans from all walks of life in a year of full time service. VISTA members support the program’s purpose through three primary objectives: 1) encouraging volunteer service at the local level, 2) generating the commitment of private sector resources, and 3) strengthening local agencies and organizations that serve low-income communities. There are currently over 5,000 VISTA members serving in over 1,000 projects throughout the nation.

During the Clinton Administration, VISTA was brought under the newly created Corporation for National and Community Service. It was also made part of the new AmeriCorps program, and was renamed "AmeriCorps*VISTA." VISTA members sign up with a host agency to a full-time term of service, 365 days over the year. In return for their service, members are provided with orientation and training, a living stipend calculated at no less than 95% of the poverty line, settling in and transportation costs, child care benefits and a basic health care plan. Upon completion of their one-year term, VISTA members have the option of receiving $1,200 or an education award of $4,725.


The National Voting Rights Act of 1965 (42 U.S.C. § 1973-1973aa-6) outlawed the requirement that would-be voters in the United States take literacy tests to qualify to register to vote, and it provided for federal registration of voters in areas that had less than 50% of eligible minority voters registered. The act also provided for Department of Justice oversight to registration, and the Department's approval for any change in voting law in districts that had used a "device" to limit voting and in which less than 50% of the population was registered to vote in 1964. It was signed in 1965, and signed for a 25 year extension by President George W. Bush on July 27, 2006.


Operation Rolling Thunder was the title of a gradual and sustained U.S. 2nd Air Division (later Seventh Air Force), U.S. Navy, and Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) aerial bombardment campaign conducted against the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) from 2 March 1965 until 1 November 1968, during the Vietnam War.

The four objectives of the operation, (which evolved over time) were: to bolster the sagging morale of the Saigon regime in the Republic of Vietnam; to convince North Vietnam to cease its support for the communist insurgency in South Vietnam; to destroy North Vietnam's transportation system, industrial base, and air defenses; and to interdict the flow of men and materiel into the south. Attainment of these objectives was made difficult by both the restraints imposed upon the U.S and its allies by Cold War exigencies and by the military aid and assistance received by North Vietnam from its socialist allies, the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China (PRC).

The operation became the most intense air/ground battle waged during the Cold War period, indeed, it was the most difficult such campaign fought by the U.S. Air Force since the aerial bombardment of Germany during the Second World War. Thanks to the efforts of its allies, the DRV fielded a potent mixture of sophisticated air-to-air and ground-to-air weapons that created one of the most effective air defense environments ever faced by American military aviators. After one of the longest aerial campaigns ever conducted by any nation, Rolling Thunder was terminated as a strategic failure in late 1968 having achieved none of its objectives.


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Pub.L. 88-352, 78 Stat. 241, July 2, 1964) was landmark legislation in the United States that outlawed segregation in the US schools and public places. First conceived to help African Americans, the bill was amended prior to passage to protect women in courts, and explicitly included white people for the first time. It also started the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In order to circumvent limitations on the federal use of the Equal Protection Clause handed down by the Civil Rights Cases, the law was passed under the Commerce Clause. Once it was implemented, its effects were far reaching and had tremendous long-term impacts on the whole country. It prohibited discrimination in public facilities, in government, and in employment, invalidating the Jim Crow laws in the southern US. It became illegal to compel segregation of the races in schools, housing, or hiring. Powers given to enforce the bill were initially weak, but were supplemented in later years.

On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 (also known as CRA '68), which was meant as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the Civil Rights Act of 1866[1] prohibited discrimination in housing, there were no federal enforcement provisions. The 1968 act expanded on previous acts and prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and family status. It also provided protection for civil rights workers. Title VIII of the Act is also known as the Fair Housing Act (of 1968) .

Victims of discrimination may use both the 1968 act and the 1866 act (via section 1982) to seek redress. The 1968 act provides for federal solutions while the 1866 act provides for private solutions (i.e., civil suits).