U.S. History in 15 Songs

Contact Information

Office: 154 S Murray Hall

Email: jared.eberle@okstate.edu

Office Hours: 1-4 Wednesday or by appointment

Phone: (405) 744-5679 (Main Office to leave a message)


From slave spirituals of the antebellum era, to jazz clubs of Harlem and Chicago and Bob Dylan’s Greenwich Village folk sessions, songs have served an important role on both personal and collective levels. Throughout the history of the United States music has provided commentary, solace, and soundtracks for critical events. Over the next sixteen weeks we will examine fifteen songs that have both influenced American history and provide an alternative way of analyzing American history.


All materials related to the course are posted on the content tab of the course’s BrightSpace page, https://online.okstate.edu. In addition to weekly discussion materials, copies of all the songs and supplemental materials are also provided. You should ensure you have access to the online class site and all materials play correctly as soon as possible to ensure your ability to complete the weekly assignments.


Song Responses - Over the course of the semester you will write four short 500 word responses to the assigned material for that week. Utilizing the materials explain how the song for that week helps us better understand that particular era of U.S. history. Then provide an alternative song and explain why you made the choice you did making use of academic sources as needed. Assignments are due by 5PM Monday of the assigned week (e.g. the day before class) and need to be submitted to the appropriate Dropbox on the course’s BrightSpace page. These responses will not only help guide our weekly discussions but will help in the process of constructing your final assignment of the semester.

Final Paper - Pick a topic of U.S. history (this can be conceived as broadly or narrowly as you wish) and create a playlist for that topic. Utilizing academic materials, tell a short history of the topic and then explain your playlist selections and how they help us understand the topic. Your playlist should have at least five songs and no more than fifteen. Papers should be between 1,250 and 1,500 words. You will upload a copy of the paper to Brightspace and put a hard copy in my department mailbox (located in 101 S Murray Hall) by 5PM on Wednesday, December 12th.

Attendance / Participation - This course only meets once a week for fifty minutes, so attendance is of the utmost importance. Additionally the course is rooted in your ideas as much as anything and as such you should expect to not only be present for every class but be engaged in discussions. I will take attendance during every class period as well as assess participation over the course of the semester.


Assignment 500 points Breakdown
Responses 200 Points 50 Points Each
Final Paper 150 Points  
Attendance/Participation 150 Points 75 Points Each

The following key will determine your letter grade:

Grade Percentage
A 90% and above
B 80%-89%
C 70%-79%
D 60-69%
F 59% and below

NOTE: Due to the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), I do not answer any emails related to grades. Students unsure about where they stand in class need to come see me in person.

Additional Policies


Important deadlines for dropping the class are:

  • August 27: 100% refund for dropped class
  • August 31: Partial refund for dropped class
  • October 3: Six week grades
  • November 9: Withdraw deadline

Incomplete Grades

University policy requires that students complete at least 50% of the assigned coursework to receive an “incomplete” grade. While I will only give incompletes in extremely rare situations, be advised you will need to finish the coursework within a year to remove the incomplete, otherwise you will receive an “I” paired with the grade you earned at that time (e.g. I/B, I/C). Incompletes are not automatic, you need to meet with me in person to arrange an incomplete.

Late Work

Extensions will only be granted at my discretion and will only happen in extremely rare circumstances (i.e. serious illness, family emergency). In these circumstances you need to notify me as soon as you know. Accommodations will not be given if you fail to give me proper notice or do not provide adequate documentation.

Class conduct

  • Using computers for non-class activities will result in loss of laptop privileges. In the event laptops become enough of a distraction, they will be banned from use.
  • Cellphones should be on silent and in your backpack not on your lap or desk.
  • Do not pack up prior to the end of class. I lecture for the full fifty minutes, and some of the most important points in lectures come at the end as I’m wrapping up. Packing up early is not only disrespectful but causes too much noise for others to properly hear the lecture.
  • Taking photographs, videos, or audio recordings of the lectures or PowerPoint slides without my permission is prohibited.
  • You are expected to conduct yourself in a professional manner. History has a number of controversial events and we will address some of these. Please respect the views of your classmates and treat everyone with decency. You will be asked to leave/lose attendance points if you are not able to conduct yourself in a professional manner.

Disability Services

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, each student with a disability is responsible for notifying the University of his/her disability and requesting accommodations. If you think you have a qualified disability and need special accommodations, you should notify the instructor and request verification of eligibility for accommodations from Student Disability Services, 315 Student Union, 405-744-7116. Please advise the instructor of such disability and desired accommodations at some point before, during, or immediately after the first scheduled class period. Faculty members are obligated to respond when they receive official notice of a disability, but are under no obligation to provide retroactive accommodations. To receive services, you must submit appropriate documentation and complete an intake process during which the existence of a qualified disability is verified and reasonable accommodations are identified. Go to www.okstate.edu/ucs/stdis/ for additional information.

NOTE: Students with SDS accomodations need to either attend office hours or schedule an appointment to discuss the accomodations before the end of the second week of classes.

Academic Integrity

Intentional cheating of any kind on any assignment will result in formal academic integrity violation proceedings including referral to the Office of Student Conduct, and may result in a failing grade for the entire course and/or receiving a permanent notation of a violation of academic integrity on your transcript (F!) All students should be familiar with university academic integrity guidelines and procedures, including the right to appeal charges. For more information you may contact the Office of Academic Affairs, 101 Whitehurst, 405-744-5627, or visit http://academicintegrity.okstate.edu

Course Schedule

If you need additional background on any of the topics covered you can consult Eric Foner’s Give Me Liberty, the textbook for History 1103 or The American Yawp, an open access, peer-reviewed textbook.

Week One - Introduction / Music in American History

  • George Lipsitz - “Introduction: The Long Fetch of History; or, Why Music Matters” from Footsteps in the Dark

Week Two - The First Americans (John Angaiak - Ak’a Tamaani)

  • Origin Stories of the Salinan, Cherokee, Acoma Pueblo, and Iroquois

Week Three - Young, Scrappy and Hungry: The American Revolution (My Shot - Hamilton Cast)

  • Journal of the Early Republic - Symposium on Hamilton, An American Musical

Week Four - Slavery and Antebellum Society (Bernice Johnson Reagon - Jacob’s Ladder)

  • Stephanie M.H. Camp - “The Pleasures of Resistance: Enslaved Women and Body Politics in the Plantation South, 1830-1861”

Week Five - American Disunion (Pete Seeger - John Brown’s Body)

  • James Baldwin - “John Brown’s Body”

Week Six - America’s New Empire (Floyd Red Crow Westerman - Custer Died For Your Sins)

  • Richard White - “The American West and American Empire” from Manifest Destinies and Indigenous Peoples

Week Seven - Reconstruction’s Unfinished Revolution (Nina Simone - Strange Fruit)

  • Stephen Kantrowitz - “One Man’s Mob Is Another Man’s Militia: Violence, Manhood, and Authority in Reconstruction South Carolina” from Jumpin’ Jim Crow: Southern Politics from Civil War to Civil Rights

Week Eight - Blues and the Promise of the North (Robert Johnson - Sweet Home Chicago)

  • Elijah Wald - “What Is Blues” and “The Mississippi Delta: Life and Listening” from Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues

Week Nine - Hard Times (Woody Guthrie - Pretty Boy Floyd)

  • Nancy Isenberg - “Forgotten Men and Poor Folk: Downward Mobility and the Great Depression” from White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Week Ten - Rock Against Conformity (John Trudell - Baby Boom Che)

  • Glenn Altschuler - “‘Yakety Yak, Don’t Talk Back:’ Rock ‘n’ Roll and Generational Conflict” from All Shook Up: How Rock ‘n’ Roll Changed America

Week Eleven - Who is Folk? Civil Rights and Authencity (Bob Dylan - The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll)

  • Peter Dreier - The Political Bob Dylan
  • Grace Elizabeth Hall - “Black as Folk: The Folk Music Revival, the Civil Rights Movement, and Bob Dylan” from A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America

Note: Hall’s reading is relatively long and is broken up into three sections. You are encouraged to read all three sections, but you can reasonably skim the first section on the rise of folk and then read the subsequent two. But again, attempt to take in all of Hall’s work.

Week Twelve - Civil Rights in the North (Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) - Marvin Gaye)

  • Thomas Sugrue - “Long Hot Summers” from Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North

Week Thirteen - The Vietnam War and the Counterculture Rebellion (Okie From Muskogee - Merle Haggard)

  • Peter La Chapelle - “Fightin’ Sides: ‘Okie From Muskogee,’ Conservative Populism, and the Uses of Migrant Identity” from Proud to Be an Okie: Cultural Politics, Country Music, and Migration to Southern California

Week Fourteen - Breaking Out: Women’s Liberation (The Pill - Loretta Lynn)

  • Mark Allan Jackson - “Stand Up to Your Man: The Working-Class Feminism of Loretta Lynn” from The Honky Tonk on the Left: Progressive Thought in Country Music

Week Fifteen - “Nobody wants to come down here no more:” The Rust Belt (Youngstown - Bruce Springsteen)

  • Jefferson Cowie and Lauren Boehm - “Dead Man’s Town: ‘Born In the U.S.A.,’ Social History, and Working-Class Identity”

Week Sixteen - Blackness in the New Millenium (Beyoncé - FORMATION)

  • Beyoncé - Coachella 2018 Performance
  • Zandria Robinson - We Slay, Part I
  • Zandria Robinson - Beyoncé’s Southern ‘Formation’
  • Zandria Robinson - How Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade’ Exposes Inner Lives of Black Women

Final Essay - Due On Dropbox and Hard Copy by 5PM, Wednesday, December 12th