An American Experiment: Liberty, Equality, and Democracy in the United States? Part Two, 1878-2022

History | Social Sciences

Course Description

This course will look at the republic as it navigated the challenges of maintaining a democracy from the late 19th century through the early 21st. Did the nation live up to its founding declaration of the equality of all people and to its claim to base its government on the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as it moved at times reluctantly, at times with fervour, to superpower status?

Having fought a civil war to see if, as Lincoln put it, a nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the notion of human equality could long endure, the United States came in the decades following the war to experience both the failure of reconstruction and the rise of inequality.

What can we learn from these twin experiences that marked the United States as it came into the 20th century? Did the progressive era followed by the New Deal change the United States from a republic of limited government into a democracy that aims at equality? If so, how are we to understand the nation’s exclusion of major elements of its society: Native Americans, African Americans, immigrants of non-European descent, and, to a certain extent, women?

To what extent can the history of the United States in the 20th and early 21st centuries be seen to rest on how Americans have navigated the relation between their defense of rights and liberty and their interest in equality? Has the United States’ role as world leader forced the country to reckon with its inner contradictions? Did the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s constitute a second refounding of the republic? Has this refounding been secured? Or has it been followed—as was the case with reconstruction—by a backlash that has taken various forms from the Reagan Revolution to the MAGA movement? We will explore these and other questions with our core texts: Jill Lepore’s These Truths: A History of the United States, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz’s, An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States, and other sources. This course is open to all students, regardless of whether they have taken the first part.

The previous course in the series is not a prerequisite.

Books to Purchase (will be available at Argo Bookshop during the weeks prior to the course beginning):

    • Another Country by James Baldwin (9780679744719)
    • An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (9780807000403)
    • These Truths: A History of the United States by Jill Lepore (9780393357424)

This course is full. To join the waitlist, please email

Course Details

Location: Zoom

First Session: Tuesday 20 September 2022

Course Length: 12 weeks, Tuesdays, 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Discussion Team: Pam Butler, Carol Fiedler, Rina Kampeas, Brian McDonough

Degree Credit: 3.0 credits

Course Fees: 

$150.00 (standard tuition)
$100.00 (promotion for new students)

Administrative Fee:



$185.00 (standard tuition)
$135.00 (promotion for new students)

Course fees are refundable in full before the second session. After the second session, a fee of $50 for the withdrawal will be applied. Refunds will not be issued after the third session. Please note that non-attendance does not constitute a withdrawal.

Students pursuing studies for credit are encouraged to consult with their advisers as they register for courses.

Course leaders, and students wishing to use credit vouchers, should call (514) 935-9585 to pay by phone or to schedule an appointment to pay in person.

Questions? Stuck? Give us a call at (514) 935-9585
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