How federal policies narrow class, race, and ethno-religious differences in the middle decades of the 20th century


Carl Degler celebrated the New Deal as a “Third American Revolution” that ushered in a “new conception of the good society.”  Other historians have followed his lead, painting the period stretching from the New Deal in the 1930s through the Great Society of the mid-1960s as a rare moment when federal policies worked to make the U.S. both more egalitarian and more inclusive.  Drawing on Ira Katznelson’s book as well as other course materials, write a 5-6-page essay assessing this argument.  Did federal policies narrow class, race, and ethno-religious differences in the middle decades of the 20th century?  Why or why not?

In writing this essay, you need to develop a thesis, but it may be nuanced.  In fact, you would do well to consider both sides of this argument.  You might start by reviewing Carl Degler’s article, Katznelson’s book, as well as course lectures and other readings.  In what ways did federal policies from the 1930s through the mid-1960s promote equality and inclusion?  In what ways did they fail to do so?  Who benefitted the most and who benefitted least?  Although Katznelson has strong opinions on this matter, you do not need to agree with him, as long as you provide evidence to support your argument.

One other tip… I would encourage you to think about the categories you are using.  For instance, Katznelson primarily talks about “blacks” and “whites.”  Would Americans in the late 1920s (the period just before the New Deal) have thought primarily in those terms?  Would religious or ethnic distinctions have loomed larger in the 1920s than they did in the 1960s?  If so, what changed?


I have intentionally posed a broad question and you won’t be able to explore every angle in a paper of this length.  Also, there isn’t one “right” way to answer the question.  We are hoping that you will think broadly about the question and then write an interesting and well-supported paper that makes a compelling historical argument.  Be sure to

1) Provide a strong thesis, ideally on the first page of the paper.  Begin each supporting paragraph with a strong topic sentence that summarizes the point of that paragraph.

2) Develop your argument clearly and logically, using specific evidence to back up your points.  You must draw on Katznelson, and may use any other class readings, lectures, and AV materials that you find useful.  DO NOT USE OUTSIDE SOURCES.

3) Consider both sides of the argument.  You can do this by writing a nuanced thesis.  You can also write a thesis that makes a strong care one way or the other, but then acknowledge caveats/qualifications at some point in your paper.

4) Cite all material drawn from readings in either footnotes or endnotes.  (See additional discussion below.)

5) Proofread your paper for spelling and grammatical errors.  Try to avoid run-on sentences and passive constructions.


CITATIONS:  As with all written assignments, this paper should properly acknowledge words and ideas that are not your own.  You do not have to cite lectures, but you should cite any other course texts or readings you draw on.  Please site sources using Chicago Style (i.e. footnotes and endnotes).  I have posted a quick guide to using this form of citation on the class Blackboard site under “Assignments.”  If you have any doubts about what constitutes plagiarism, please talk to your teaching assistant, or see me during my office hours.

FORMATTING:  All papers should be typed (12-point font) and double-spaced with a one-inch margin, and stapled before they are handed in.  Please do not exceed the page limit even if you have a lot to say.  There is virtue in conciseness!


Cultural advancements and the nature of human geography that they produce have been experienced over a long period. Nevertheless, culture transforms slowly and so does the perceptible landscape that it brings forth. The diverse cultural landscapes in the United States have developed as a consequence of demographic, technological and economic transformations. However, it can be argued that that state policies have helped in narrowing race, class and ethnographic variations during the 20th century asserting that these changes were not brought about by cultural advancements but rather these developments came about as a result of demographic, economic and technological advancements in the United States since World War II. This argument forms the thesis of this paper.