Walter T. Howard, PhD

Professor of History

Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania

114 Old Science Hall


Hangin' with my three sons on Panama City Beach.

Who does it look like won this race? ........................................................................................... The genius sleeps!

Bloomsburg University

BU History Department

Curriculum Vitae

Communist History Network Newsletter Online

Historians of American Communism

American Communism and Anticommunism: A Historian’s Bibliography and Guide to the Literature

Black Communists Speak on Scottsboro: A Documentary History [Temple University Press]

We Shall Be Free! Black Cmmunist Protest in Seven Voices [Temple University Press]


Syllabus 42-122 Summer 2014

History 42-122 Summer 2014 US 1877 to the Present

Dr. Walter Howard
Instructor's Office: OSH 114
Office Phone: 389-4863/e-mail
Office Hours: M-Th 10am to 11am
Course Website:

The People Speak (2009) Poster

Course Description:
This course will provide an overview of the social, cultural, and political history of the United States from 1877 to the early twenty-first century, and will equip students to better understand the problems and challenges of the contemporary world in relation to events and trends in modern American history. The course is based on "Critical pedagogy” and considers how education can provide individuals with the tools to better themselves and strengthen democracy, to create a more egalitarian and just society, and thus to deploy education in a process of progressive social change. It involves teaching the skills that will empower citizens and students to become sensitive to the politics of representations of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and other cultural differences in order to foster critical thinking and enhance democratization. We will examine how the struggle of workers, women, racialized groups, artists and intellectuals, and the wealthy and powerful altered democracy. We will look at the impact war, depression, ideology, technology, globalization, social movements, etc., have had on the US.

Required Textbooks:

  1. Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States  This text is available online:

Since its original landmark publication in 1980, A People's History of the United States has been chronicling American history from the bottom up, throwing out the official version of history taught in schools -- with its emphasis on great men in high places -- to focus on the street, the home, and the, workplace.
Known for its lively, clear prose as well as its scholarly research, A People's History is the only volume to tell America's story from the point of view of -- and in the words of -- America's women, factory workers, African-Americans, Native Americans, the working poor, and immigrant laborers. As historian Howard Zinn shows, many of our country's greatest battles -- the fights for a fair wage, an eight-hour workday, child-labor laws, health and safety standards, universal suffrage, women's rights, racial equality -- were carried out at the grassroots level, against bloody resistance. Covering Christopher Columbus's arrival through President Clinton's first term, A People's History of the United States, which was nominated for the American Book Award, features insightful analysis of the most important events in our history,


Learning Goals [Outcomes]:
In this course students can expect to develop or enhance their ability to

Teaching Methods
This course will require students to complete a heavy reading load and class sessions will be organized around scholarly discussions of each day's assigned readings. Students are required to complete all assigned readings prior to the start of class and come to class prepared to discuss and analyze its meaning.
Our class meetings will also involve extensive examination of visual materials that reflect how Americans thought and felt about the meaning of Americanism, the role of the United States in the world, and the inclusion or exclusion from the body politic of specific racial or ethnic groups. Since movies were among the powerful influences on such questions, we will watch part or all of a number of Hollywood films and you will be asked to write essays about these movies. We also will watch several documentaries that include valuable visual evidence, such as newsreel footage. Lectures will present many images from political cartoons, propaganda posters, and advertisements that illustrate how journalists, propagandists, and corporations sought to shape popular attitudes or government policies.

Your instructor’s teaching philosophy: Guiding Principles
These statements are certainly no catechism. They do define my pedagogical political perspective in all my classes. As my students, I invite your participation in debating these learning issues when they arise in the course. My teaching encourages students to identify with a community and vision of democratic radicalism, humanistic, committed to individual freedom and the general welfare. There are beliefs shared by this community:

Each student’s written and verbal performance, level of effort, level of attention paid in class, and participation will be evaluated.  At the end of the course, all written work and participation will be evaluated equally and a final grade will be determined.

     Students will be expected to comply with the Classroom Behavior/Conduct Policy. Cell phones must be switched off and meals must be eaten before the start of class.

You must inform the professor of your choice of biography by email.
Any student with a disability should see the instructor so that their special needs can be met.
Office Hours
I will be in my office, Old Science Hall (OSH) Room 114, during the time indicated on this syllabus, or by appointment if these times are not convenient for your schedule. To arrange an appointment time, see me or call and leave a message on my voice mail (389-4863). You may also e-mail me at I will be checking my e-mail several times every day, so it is a reliable way to pass along a comment or question.
Don’t be timid. If you are having problems in the course, don’t delay making an appointment to see me. I am always willing to discuss material, or more importantly, to talk to you about how to study more effectively.

It is required that students evaluate themselves at the end of the semester which will be taken into consideration when determining a student’s final grade. At any time during the semester, a student may discuss her or his evaluation and progress with the professor. 

Grades are given on a standard curve as follows:
94-100, A
90-93, A-
87-89, B+
83-86, B
80-82, B-
77-79, C+
73-76, C
70-72, C-
67-69, D+
60-66, D
00-59, E     
Most students exhibit appropriate behavior in class, but sometimes there is disagreement over the definition of “appropriate” behavior. The College expects students to maintain integrity and high standards of individual honor in scholastic work and to observe standards of behavior that are appropriate for a democratic educational environment. Unacceptable and disruptive behaviors will not be permitted, overlooked, or ignored.

For BU’s official Student Code of Conduct see:
Examples of disruptive behavior may include the following:

Course Outline

Introduction to the course: “History From the Bottom Up” and a Usable Past

Reading Assignment: The Essential Staughton Lynd, 2 Howard Zinn essays [pp. 27-41]
Video: “The People Speak” A look at America's struggles with war, class, race and women's rights based
on Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States.

The People Speak (2009) Poster

Journal Issue: What is your evaluation of the instructor’s teaching philosophy in this course? Should history be used for social and political activism in progressive causes?

America in the 1880s and 1890s: Social and Cultural History of American Racism

Racial beliefs have always been tied to social ideas and policy. After all, if differences between groups are natural, then nothing can or should be done to correct for unequal outcomes. Scientific literature of the late 19th and early 20th century explicitly championed such a view, and many prominent scientists devoted countless hours to documenting racial differences and promoting man's natural hierarchy.
Although today such ideas are outmoded, it is still popular to believe in innate racial traits rather than look elsewhere to explain group differences. We all know the myths and stereotypes - natural Black athletic superiority, musical ability among Asians - but are they really true on a biological level? If not, why do we continue to believe them? Race may not be biological, but it is still a powerful social idea with real consequences for people's lives.
Journal Issue: What were the racist ideas and philosophies of the late 19th and 20th century America? Do you agree or disagree with these philosophies?

1890s – 1960s: Jim Crow America
Reading Assignment: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, “The Birth of Jim Crow” [pp. 30 - 35]
Video: “The New Jim Crow Lecture” /14214/The+New+Jim+Crow+Mass+Incarceration+in+the+Age+of+Colorblindness.aspx

Journal Issue: In light of the history of slavery, caste, and the poverty-prison pipeline, how deeply ingrained is white racism in American society?

Redsposter.jpg This movie tells the true story of John Reed, a radical American journalist around the time of World War I. He soon meets Louise Bryant, a respectable married woman, who dumps her husband for Reed and becomes an important feminist and radical in her own right. After involvement with labor and political disputes in the US, they go to Russia in time for the October Revolution in 1917, when the Communists seized power. Inspired, they return to the US, hoping to lead a similar revolution. A particularly fascinating aspect of the movie is the inclusion of interviews with "witnesses", the real-life surviving participants in the events of the movie.
Journal Issue: What was the historical significance of the American Socialist and/or Communist Movement in the early 20th century?

“Part I: A New Generation of Revolutionaries, 1968-1973” [pp. 15-92]

Video: The Weather Underground Weather Underground emerged when Dohrn and a group of fellow University of Chicago students split with the campus-run Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS, because they disagreed with the SDS’s peaceful protest tactics against the Vietnam War. Dubbing itself the Weathermen, this new organization took its name from a line in Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues”—“you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”—and within months had set off bombs at the National Guard headquarters and set in motion plans to bomb targets across the country that it considered emblematic of the worldwide violence sanctioned by the U.S. government.
Journal Issue: Is Violence ever justified in the name of social change and social justice? Before he was convicted of murdering a policeman in 1981 and sentenced to die, Mumia Abu-Jamal was a gifted journalist and brilliant writer. Now after more than 30 years in prison and despite attempts to silence him, Mumia is not only still alive but continuing to report, educate, provoke and inspire.
Stephen Vittoria's new feature documentary is an inspiring portrait of a man whom many consider America's most famous political prisoner - a man whose existence tests our beliefs about freedom of expression. Through prison interviews, archival footage, and dramatic readings, and aided by a potent chorus of voices including Cornel West, Alice Walker, Dick Gregory, Angela Davis, Amy Goodman and others, this riveting film explores Mumia's life before, during and after Death Row - revealing, in the words of Angela Davis, "the most eloquent and most powerful opponent of the death penalty in the world...the 21st Century Frederick Douglass."

Final Exam Essay Due on the last day of finals week.


U.S. Labor History

Syllabus: 42-472 US Labor History

Introduction: The American Labor Movement

Dray Ch 2

Dray Ch 3

Dray Ch 4

Week 8: Spring Break 3/18-3/22  No Class
Midterm Exam Due [3/25] 

Final Exam Essay: Due 5/17

Final Exam Essay: Due last day of class


42-208 Contemporary Issues [Summer 2012]

42-210 Values in Conflict


Pennsylvania History

Pennsylvania: 1865-1945

Pennsylvania, 1945-Present

Lectures: African History/Black Atlantic

42-208 Contemporary Issues [Summer 2011]


42-210 Values in Conflict [Summer 2011]