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American Urban and Suburban History
History 498 (Senior Seminar)
Fall 2011

Professor: Steve Estes
Office: Stevenson 2070D
Phone: 707.664.2424
Office Hours:
Class Meets: Stevenson 2079; 1-4:40 Tuesdays

Course Objectives:
This course is intended to give a broad overview of modern American urban and suburban history and historiography. The course begins with the wave of American urbanization at the end of the nineteenth century and the rise of great American cities in the first half of the twentieth century. We then move into an era of suburbanization and urban decline starting in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Finally, we consider the role of smaller American metropolises and the changes in big cities brought about through redevelopment, gentrification, and a new wave of immigration in the last three decades. Throughout the course, we will be working on the craft of research and the art of writing. By the end of the semester we will not only have a better understanding of what other scholars have said about American urban history; we will also have contributed our own original efforts at chronicling the history our nation’s cities and suburbs.

H.G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights
Kevin Boyle, Arc of Justice
Anthony Flint, Wrestling with Moses
Chester Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go
Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier
Kevin Kruse and Thomas Sugrue, The New Suburban History
Rebecca Solnit, Infinite City

Course Requirements:
Classroom Participation & Reading: As an advanced history seminar, meeting once a week on Tuesday afternoons (1:00 pm - 4:40 pm), this course requires that students keep up with the reading and actively participate in class discussions. At the beginning of the term students will choose one week to read both the required and optional readings so that they can lead the discussion for at least half of the allotted class time. (30% of final grade) You must come to consult with me the week before you lead the discussion.

Book Reviews: There are four book reviews in this class, an urban fieldtrip report, and one research paper. The reviews are simply one-page, single-spaced book reviews in the style of the American Historical Review or another professional historical journal. One-third of you will be turning in book reviews each week in a random assignment at the beginning of the semester. Book reviews are worth 10% each for a total of 40% of final grade.

Urban Fieldtrip Report: The urban fieldtrip report will be based on observations that you make during a visit to San Francisco. (If transportation is a problem, see me.) Some time before November 1, you will travel to San Francisco or one of its suburbs to visit a neighborhood—preferably one you do not know well already. Spend a few hours walking around the neighborhood and getting something to eat or drink. If you go to the city, I encourage you to take advantage of the free walking tours for various neighborhoods available through San Francisco City Guides. Wherever you go, observe the neighborhood’s demography, geography, socio-economic status, residential/commercial mix, architecture, etc.? What can you learn about its history from walking around? Either before or after you go, you should do research on-line to see how your observations compare to data about the neighborhood. Your fieldtrip report should be 2-3 pages, and it should include both observations and research information. The fieldtrip report is worth 10% of your final grade.
Here are some useful websites on SF neighborhoods:
San Francisco Chronicle’s Neighborhood Guide
SF Prospector Click on the “Access City-Wide Demographic and Business Data”
New York Times: Mapping America –Type in San Francisco and/or a zip code and zoom in.

Term Paper: The term paper, dealing with any aspect of American urban history since the Civil War, is 15-20 pages long, and it will be based on primary and secondary sources. Students will give a 5-7 minute presentation of their research at the end of the semester. The term paper is worth 30% of final grade—including grades on rough drafts and on the research presentation at the end of the semester.

Course Schedule

Week I: Introduction: Urban Dystopias 8.30
Required Reading: None
Part 1: Student Introductions & Discussion of Reviews / Research Topics
Part 2: View & Discuss Blade Runner

Week II: A Grand Narrative (Part 1) 9.06
Required Reading: Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier (Intro-Chapter 10)
Part 1: Discuss Gilded Age Cities and Streetcar Suburbs
Part 2: Possible Video: Gangs of New York and Boardwalk Empire clips

Week III: A Grand Narrative (Part 2) 9.13
Required Reading: Kenneth Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier (Chapter 11-16); and Andrew Needham and Allen Dieterich-Ward, “Beyond the Metropolis: Metropolitan Growth and Regional Transformation in Postwar America,” Journal of Urban History, November 2009, 35(7): 943-969. (Article available through library database—EBSCO.)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion and Reviews
Part 2: Possible Video: Pleasantville & American Beauty; Possible Audio: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs

Week IV: Race and the Motor City 9.20
Required Reading: Kevin Boyle, Arc of Justice
Part 1: Student-led Discussion and Reviews
Part 2: Discussion (Jim Crow North and South)

Week V: Race and the City of Angels 9.27
Required Reading: Chester Himes, If He Hollers Let Him Go
Part 1: Student-led Discussion and Reviews
Part 2: World War II and California

Week VI: Fighting Over the Core (of the Big Apple) 10.04
Required Reading: Anthony Flint, Wrestling with Moses
Part 1: Student-Led Discussion & Reviews
Part 2: Possible Video:

Week VII: The Urban Environment 10.11
Required Writing: Research Proposal (1-page on thesis and sources)
Required Reading: William Cronon, Nature’s Metropolis, Prologue, Ch. 1, and Epilogue (On Reserve); Martin V. Melosi "Humans, Cities, and Nature: How Do Cities Fit in the Material World?." Journal of Urban History 2010, 36(1): 3-21.  (Article available through library database—EBSCO.)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion & Reviews
Part 2: Discussion of Paper Proposals

Week VIII: The ‘Burbs (Part 1) 10.18
Required Reading: Kruse and Sugrue, The New Suburban History (Intro, Chs. 1-5)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion & Reviews
Part 2: White Flight vs. Gentrification

Week IX: The ‘Burbs (Part 2) 10.25
Required Reading: Kruse and Sugrue, The New Suburban History (Ch. 6-10)
Part 1: Student-led Discussion & Reviews
Part 2: Compare and Contrast: US/European Suburbs

Week X: They Call it ‘Frisco 11.01
Required Reading: Rebecca Solnit, Infinite City
Part 1: Student-led Discussion & Reviews
Part 2: Fieldtrip/Neighborhood Report

Week XI: San Francisco on Film 11.08
Required Reading: None
Required Writing: Draft of research paper introduction (2-3 pages)
Required Viewing: Select a five minute clip from a movie set in San Francisco that you think is reflective of the time in which it was made and/or set and the areas of the city depicted.
Possible Videos: The Bridge, Bullitt, Howl, Joy Luck Club, Milk, Maltese Falcon, Mrs. Doubtfire, The Rock, Sucker Free City, Vertigo, Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, Zodiac, etc.  
Part 1: Video Clips and Discussion
Part 2: Writing Workshop on Introductions

Week XII: Civil Rights, Immigration, and the City 11.15
Required Reading: Brett Gadsden, “‘The Other Side of the Milliken Coin’: The Promise and Pitfalls of Metropolitan Desegregation,” Journal of Urban History, March 2010, 36(2): 173-196; Clarence Taylor, “Hurricane Katrina and the Myth of Post-Civil Rights Era,” Journal of Urban History, July 2009, 35(5): 640-655; and Michael H. Ebner, “Metropolitan Revisions: Storylines from American History,” Journal of Urban History, January 2011, 37(1): 3-23.
Part 1: Student-led Discussion & Reviews
Part 2: Census Mapping and Urban Demographics; Possible Video: Spike Lee, When the Levees Broke (Part 1)

Week XIII: Research Day 11.22
No Class

Week XV: Bright Lights, “Big” City 11.29
Required Viewing: H. G. Bissinger, Friday Night Lights
Part 1: Student-led Discussion & Reviews
Part 2: Possible Video: Friday Night Lights

Week XVI: Student Presentations 12.6
Required Writing: Research Paper Due
Part 1: Student Presentations

Final Exam Complete Student Presentations 12.13 (2-3:50 pm)
Part 1: Complete Student Presentations