American History short answers


Question 2 – Connect: Base your answer to this question on the two assigned readings within the lesson – the interview with a Yale Professor and the blog on Hawaiian Food. (Note: Hawaii itself is part of the U.S.)

What did Freedman mean by when he said there are “three characterizes of American cuisine” are “regionalism, standardization, and variety”? How did each change over time? Does Hawaiian cuisine, as discussed in the PBS article, go along with Freedman’s definition of American cuisine? Explain your answer. 



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American Nation, American Empire Sway Lesson

Note: This Sway lesson contains links to additional required readings. As you go through the lesson,

be sure click on the relevant links to read the sections in Yawp, the interview with the Yale Historian

on food history, and the blog on Hawaiian food. If you have any questions, let your professor know.

The American Nation-State & Imperialism

The Civil War (1860-1865) challenged the idea of a single American nation-state at the same time

that the idea of modern nationalism (the alignment of the nation with the state) was popular across

the Atlantic. The Union’s win in the Civil War helped to create a single nation-state (although by

force). To be clear, let’s go over what nation and state mean. The nation is a people or an imagined

community. It is larger than a city or region. A state is a political entity – a government with borders

that is sovereign. The idea of a nation-state is that a people have their own sovereign country. After

the Civil War, people started to use The United States (instead of These United States) more often.

Once they did – once they thought of the United States as a nation-state – then people began to debate

exactly who was part of the American nation. American national identity is based around the

founding ideals such as the right to self rule (democracy), liberty (individual rights), and equality.

The cartoon below, School Begins, was created in 1899, just after the Spanish-American War and

during the Filipino-American War. These imperialist wars sparked a debate over who America was –

was it okay for a nation that had fought for independence from Britain to hold other nations as

colonies? Was it okay to proclaim liberty and self-rule while forcing rule on weaker nations? The first

part of this lesson focuses on U.S. imperialism with regard to Hawaii and the former Spanish

colonies gained through the Spanish-American War.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries the United States joined the other imperialist powers in

nation-state competition over territory. The U.S. annexation of Hawaii and its victory against Spain

in the Spanish-American War prompted a debate within the U.S. over the meaning of liberty and

American democracy. Read American Yawp Chapter 19, parts II, III, and IV (
Click Here to access

the Yawp Chapter). And, watch the U.S. History Crash Course on Imperialism, just below.

Here for the transcript.

School Begins:

Next, look at the School Begins cartoon – what message is the artist trying to display? What do the

different scenes represent? The information in Yawp and the Crash Course should help you decipher

the reason that “Uncle Sam” (representing U.S. policy) is “instructing” the 4 children in the front. The

other images in the cartoon help the artist make his point. See the explanation and evidence below to

help decipher the cartoon.

The political cartoon above,
School Begins, appeared in
Puck magazine in January, 1899. The center

of the cartoon is Uncle Sam “teaching” four frightened children, who are symbolic of the U.S.’s

newly acquired territories, about the “
First Lessons in Self Government,” as the book on his desk

suggests. The cartoonist, Dalrymple, was being satirical. His cartoon was a critique of U.S.

imperialism and the U.S. rhetoric that went along with imperialism. Pro-imperialists argued that they

were not taking over other territories for financial gain or other selfish reasons. Instead, they claimed,

they were spreading civilization and democracy.

Dalrymple’s cartoon sought to highlight the hypocrisy of imperialists’ claims to be spreading

democracy and civilization by including the image of a blackboard with the following scribble across

it: “The consent of the governed is a good thing in theory, but very rare in fact. — England has

governed her colonies whether they consented or not. By not waiting for their consent she has greatly

advanced the world’s civilization. — The U.S. must govern its new territories with or without their

consent until they can govern themselves.” To Dalrymple, and other critics of U.S. imperialism, he

viewed U.S. imperialist actions as counter to the ideals of the U.S., namely self-government.

The first part of this lesson provided an introduction to the rise of the American empire, with a focus

on the annexation of Hawaii and the Spanish-American War, which will provide the historical

context for the image of the four “children” in the front of the image. The scenes in the background

of the cartoon – the black child washing the window, the Native American child next to the door, and

the Chinese boy standing outside – represent other aspects of U.S. domestic and foreign policy. By

including these other scenes, Dalrymple is trying to drive home his point. Let’s look at the other

images to help us decipher Dalrymple’s message.

Our lesson on the end of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow from the previous module provides

the historical context for the black child washing the window. Consider why Dalrymple would

include a black child washing a window in a classroom full of students? (Note that this was not a

depiction of a real life scene. Instead the boy washing the window is symbolic.) Why would he

include the image of a Chinese boy standing outside the door?

To understand the historical context of the Chinese boy standing outside of the door, and thus be able

to decipher what the artist was commenting on,
read the following summary by the Library of

Congress on Chinese Immigration (c. late 19th and early 20th centuries):

The door to the Chinese American dream was finally slammed shut in 1882, when Congress passed

the Chinese Exclusion Act. This act was the first significant restriction on free immigration in U.S.

history, and it excluded Chinese laborers from the country under penalty of imprisonment and

deportation. It also made Chinese immigrants permanent aliens by excluding them from U.S.

citizenship. Chinese men in the U.S. now had little chance of ever reuniting with their wives, or of

starting families in their new home.

For all practical purposes, the Exclusion Act, along with the restrictions that followed it, froze the

Chinese community in place in 1882, and prevented it from growing and assimilating into U.S.

society as European immigrant groups did. Later, the 1924 Immigration Act would tighten the noose

even further, excluding all classes of Chinese immigrants and extending restrictions to other Asian

immigrant groups. Until these restrictions were relaxed in the middle of the twentieth century,

Chinese immigrants were forced to live a life apart, and to build a society in which they could

survive on their own.

End of summary.

Next, let’s turn to the imagine of the Native American student sitting inside the classroom, but on the

other side of the door from the other children who represented the then new states and new colonies.

What is the symbolism of the Native American sitting inside the classroom? He is sitting down, but

he is on the other side of the classroom – separated from the other students. The following is an

excerpt from an article published in History Today. Read the exerpt included below to find out about

the historical context, which will help you be able to explain what Dalrymple was trying to show.

Here is the assigned excerpt:

“Native Americans and the Federal Government” by Andrew Boxer (History Today, 2009)

At the start of the twentieth century there were approximately 250,000 Native Americans in the USA

– just 0.3 per cent of the population – most living on reservations where they exercised a limited

degree of self-government. During the course of the nineteenth century they had been deprived of

much of their land by forced removal westwards, by a succession of treaties (which were often not

honoured by the white authorities) and by military defeat by the USA as it expanded its control over

the American West.

In 1831 the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, had attempted to define their status.

He declared that Indian tribes were ‘domestic dependent nations’ whose ‘relation to the United States

resembles that of a ward to his guardian’. Marshall was, in effect, recognising that America’s Indians

are unique in that, unlike any other minority, they are both separate nations and part of the United

States. This helps to explain why relations between the federal government and the Native Americans

have been so troubled. A guardian prepares his ward for adult independence, and so Marshall’s

judgement implies that US policy should aim to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream US

culture. But a guardian also protects and nurtures a ward until adulthood is achieved, and therefore

Marshall also suggests that the federal government has a special obligation to care for its Native

American population. As a result, federal policy towards Native Americans has lurched back and

forth, sometimes aiming for assimilation and, at other times, recognising its responsibility for

assisting Indian development.

What complicates the story further is that (again, unlike other minorities seeking recognition of their

civil rights) Indians have possessed some valuable reservation land and resources over which white

Americans have cast envious eyes. Much of this was subsequently lost and, as a result, the history of

Native Americans is often presented as a morality tale. White Americans, headed by the federal

government, were the ‘bad guys’, cheating Indians out of their land and resources. Native Americans

were the ‘good guys’, attempting to maintain a traditional way of life much more in harmony with

nature and the environment than the rampant capitalism of white America, but powerless to defend

their interests. Only twice, according to this narrative, did the federal government redeem itself:

firstly during the Indian New Deal from 1933 to 1945, and secondly in the final decades of the

century when Congress belatedly attempted to redress some Native American grievances.

There is a lot of truth in this summary, but it is also simplistic. There is no doubt that Native

Americans suffered enormously at the hands of white Americans, but federal Indian policy was

shaped as much by paternalism, however misguided, as by white greed. Nor were Indians simply

passive victims of white Americans’ actions. Their responses to federal policies, white Americans’

actions and the fundamental economic, social and political changes of the twentieth century were

varied and divisive. These tensions and cross-currents are clearly evident in the history of the Indian

New Deal and the policy of termination that replaced it in the late 1940s and 1950s. Native American

history in the mid-twentieth century was much more than a simple story of good and evil, and it

raises important questions (still unanswered today) about the status of Native Americans in modern

US society.

The Dawes Act

Between 1887 and 1933, US government policy aimed to assimilate Indians into mainstream

American society. Although to modern observers this policy looks both patronising and racist, the

white elite that dominated US society saw it as a civilising mission, comparable to the work of

European missionaries in Africa. As one US philanthropist put it in 1886, the Indians were to be

‘safely guided from the night of barbarism into the fair dawn of Christian civilisation’. In practice,

this meant requiring them to become as much like white Americans as possible: converting to

Christianity, speaking English, wearing western clothes and hair styles, and living as selfsufficient,

independent Americans.

Federal policy was enshrined in the General Allotment (Dawes) Act of 1887 which decreed that

Indian Reservation land was to be divided into plots and allocated to individual Native Americans.

These plots could not be sold for 25 years, but reservation land left over after the distribution of

allotments could be sold to outsiders. This meant that the Act became, in practice, an opportunity for

land-hungry white Americans to acquire Indian land, a process accelerated by the 1903 Supreme

Court decision in
Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock that Congress could dispose of Indian land without gaining

the consent of the Indians involved. Not surprisingly, the amount of Indian land shrank from 154

million acres in 1887 to a mere 48 million half a century later.

The Dawes Act also promised US citizenship to Native Americans who took advantage of the

allotment policy and ‘adopted the habits of civilized life’. This meant that the education of Native

American children – many in boarding schools away from the influence of their parents – was

considered an essential part of the civilising process. The principal of the best-known school for

Indian children at Carlisle in Pennsylvania boasted that his aim for each child was to ‘kill the Indian

in him and save the man’.

End of Article Excerpt.

Optional: If you are interested, you can read the full article, available online through the following


Food & National Identities:

What is American? In this lesson we saw a debate over what American values were – empire and/or

democracy. In other lessons we see the repetitive theme in U.S. history of who is an American. Here

we will take a minute to think about what is American food. Is there an American cuisine? In

exploring American cuisine, we can get a better idea of what characterizes America – what is it that

makes American different or exceptional compared to other nations?

Associations of a particular nation with a particular food (like the potato and Ireland) resulted from

the rise of modern nationalism in the 19th and 20th centuries. The potato, for example, originates in

Peru, but we tend to think of it as Irish because of the Irish Potato Famine and the potato’s role as a

dominant food source in Ireland by the 19th century. The tomato that we associate with Italy also

originated in the Western Hemisphere. The Columbian Exchange (discussed in AMH2010) included

the exchange of plants and animals between the New World and the Old. The rise of national

identities, in Europe, occured mainly in the 19th century. Although items or food might have been

part of the local markets before the 19th century, the association of an item/food with a nation was

explicitly cultivated and linked during the 19th century. (Italy only became Italy in 1860. Before

then, multiple states existed. Even with unification people were far more likely to identify with their

local area – the Venetians, the Milanese, the Romans, etc.)

Idenitifying a national food for the United States is particularly difficult. Instead, we tend to think of

U.S. cuisine as regional, eclectic, and/or fast. Indeed, as you will see in the two (brief) readings

linked to below, Americans

“melting pot” or “salad bowl”

(multicultural) history contributes to a

uniquely American take on cuisine.

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