Civic Literacy Curriculum
Section 6 | Recent American History
The twentieth century saw America face many challenges, both abroad and close to home. The United States led the free world in defeating totalitarian forces, especially communism and Nazism, which each sought to dominate the individual and define his or her worth by membership in a collective. That was not the only struggle for freedom: closer to home, reformers worked to make America true to the language of the Declaration of Independence in assuring its guarantee of liberty to all Americans.
Section 6.1: WWI, the Depression and WWII
Q100: Which of the following was not a war fought by the United States in the 1900s?
For most of its history, the United States tended to follow George Washington’s advice to remain detached from military involvement on foreign shores, but this slowly changed over the course of the 20th century, during which the US engaged in five major wars.
Q101: Woodrow Wilson and World War I
World War I broke out in Europe early during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson had wanted to avoid American involvement in the war, instead preferring to focus on his efforts to remake the American government in line with his progressive political views. However, German sinking of American civilian ships and an effort to convince Mexico to attack America in exchange for recapturing the Southwest forced his hand.
Q103, 104 + 105: The Great Depression and Franklin Roosevelt
Franklin Roosevelt, the only president not to follow George Washington’s example of serving at most two elected terms, was president during two of the most trying times in American history. He was elected president midway through the Great Depression, the longest recession in modern history, which began with the Great Crash of the stock market in 1929, and he served through most of World War II.
Q106: Why did the United States enter World War II?
The Japanese government launched a sneak attack on the naval base at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, in hopes of crippling the American navy. The United States declared war on Japan in response; Germany and Italy then fulfilled their treaty obligations by also declaring war on the United States. The United States soon joined the cause of the Allies: Great Britain (and its empire), the free French forces, China, and, following its betrayal by its previous German allies, the Soviet Union.
Section 6.2 The Cold War
Q107: Which of the following was not something Dwight Eisenhower did?
Dwight Eisenhower rose through the ranks of the United States Army, eventually commanding the invasion of north Africa in 1942 and finally becoming Supreme Allied Commander during World War II. He briefly served as president of Columbia University before being recruited by the Republican Party to run for President of the United States, elected in 1952. As President in the 1950s, Eisenhower helped guide the country during the beginning of the Cold War against the totalitarian communists of the Soviet Union
Q108: Who was the United States’ main rival during the Cold War?
The Soviet Union, formally the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, emerged after the Russian Revolution in 1917, and was the primary antagonist of the United States during the Cold War that marked much of the 20th century.
Q109, 110 + 111: Communism and the Cold War
The Soviet Union sought to expand its collectivist and totalitarian vision across the world. In order to defend values such as political freedom, constitutionalism, civil liberties, and representative government under free and fair elections, the United States of America led a coalition of other free countries, such as Great Britain, in fighting communism. Although the United States of America and the Soviet Union did not directly war with one another, the second half of the twentieth century was marked by a Cold War between the two powers and their allies, which often played out as actual proxy wars, such as in Korea and Vietnam.
Section 6.3: The Civil Rights Movement
Q112 + 113: The Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Civil Rights Movement sought to guarantee legal equality, end racial discrimination, and enforce the constitutional rights guaranteed in the 14th and 15th Amendments. The most important civil rights activist was Martin Luther King, Jr., a Christian minister who fought for civil rights and equality via speeches, writings, non-violent protests, and civil disobedience in the 1950s and 1960s. Most famously, in his “I Have a Dream” speech delivered at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963, King argued that denying civil rights to non-white Americans violated both the Christian values of most of his American listeners as well as both the Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
Section 6.4 - Conflict in the Mideast
Q114, 115 + 116: Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
With the end of the Cold War, American foreign policy turned toward the Middle East, and the United States ended up fighting several wars in that region at the turn of the 21st century, including the Persian Gulf War in 1990 and, in the wake of Al-Qaeda’s attack on September 11, 2001, the war in Afghanistan.
Section 6.5 - Native Americans
Q117: Name one American Indian tribe in the United States.
As with other historic nations in the world, different Native American peoples spoke a variety of languages and organized their societies differently than the United States and each other. Some tribes practiced pastoral agriculture; others were more itinerant hunters. Some organized themselves in smaller communities; others formed larger confederations, together making war and peace with Europeans and one another. Some even wrote constitutions organizing their societies.