HSTAA 465 A: The Sixties in America: Kennedy to the Counterculture

Autumn 2024
MW 3:30pm - 5:20pm / GUG 218
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

HSTAA 465 The Sixties in America                         Fall 2024


Mondays & Wednesdays 3:30-5:20PM



Instructor: Nathan E Roberts Email: ner3@uw.edu

Office: Smith Hall 113A Office Hours: Time TBD, and by appointment


Course Description and Goals

This course examines U.S. society, culture, and politics during “the long 1960s.”  The course is divided into three chronological units: 1) the post-WWII period through 1963, 2) 1963-1968, and 3) 1968 through 1975 within which we will explore the course’s major themes: post-1945 consumerism, the Cold War and the Vietnam War, civil rights and social movements, political parties and ideological shifts, environmental and economic changes and concerns, and the diverse counterculture. 


The nature of this course poses an intellectual query: what does a focus on this one decade teach us about U.S. history? The course addresses this question with a central claim.  Post-WWII economic and social changes in America suggested that the United States was on the verge of making its original mythology of an exceptional nation into a modern reality.  Part of this realization of a modern America included the need to fight the Cold War abroad, most significantly in Vietnam, and demands for social change and civil rights at home.  The clash between the hopes for the 1960s and the realities of economic and social change both at home and abroad opened many rifts in American life. These fractures of the 1960s challenged the notion of twentieth century modernity and produced the foundations of a deeply divided American society.

By completing the course requirements, students will learn 1) how to think historically about late twentieth century U.S. history, 2) how to analyze both primary and secondary sources as core elements of historical study, 3) how to use research methods and investigative techniques employed by historians and social scientists, and 4) how to synthesize information and present analysis.


Required Readings

  • William J. Rorabaugh, Kennedy and the Promise of the Sixties (2002).
  • Peter Braunstein and Michael William Doyle, eds., Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s & ‘70s (2002).  

The course will include several other required readings, but these will be shorter pieces that are available on our course’s Canvas website.  In addition, the course will use a number of other sources including film, television, music, and other visual arts. You will be required to access these through Canvas. 


Organization of Classes

Both Monday and Wednesday sessions will be in person unless circumstances require otherwise.  Both days will include lecture material and Q&A over the previous week’s readings. See the class schedule for readings and Canvas for the specific pdf files.  Note-taking will be an essential skill in this course because you may, and should, use your notes on the exams.


Assignments & Grading

Participation                                                15%

2 Short Papers (each about 800 words)    30% (15% each)

Longer Paper (about 3,000 words)             25%

Midterm & Final Exam                                30% (15% each)

Catalog Description:
Examines American politics, society, and culture during the 1960s. Also touches on 1945-1959 and 1970-1975. Topics include the Cold War; Vietnam; JFK, LBJ, and their critics; MLK, Malcolm X, race, gender, and social movements; mass culture, pop culture, and the counterculture.
GE Requirements Met:
Social Sciences (SSc)
Last updated:
May 16, 2024 - 9:33 am