The Twentieth Century Through the Lens of a Camera

As centuries go, this has been one of the most amazing: inspiring, at times horrifying, and fascinating. Let's take stock for a moment. To name just a few random things we did in a hundred years: we split the atom, invented jazz and rock, launched airplanes and landed on the moon, concocted a general theory of relativity, devised the transistor and figured out how to etch millions of them on tiny microchips, discovered penicillin and the structure of DNA, fought down fascism and communism, developed cinema and television, built highways and wired the world. Not to mention the peripherals these produced, such as sitcoms and cable channels, "800" numbers and Websites, shopping malls and leisure time, existentialism and modernism, Oprah and Imus. And against all odds, we avoided blowing ourselves up. All this produced some memorable players. Look around. There's Louis Armstrong with his horn, Charlie Chaplin with his cane, Rosa Parks staying seated on her bus, Einstein is in his study, and the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show~ WALTER ISAACSON

Second Semester (90% A)  (80% B)  (70% C)

This assignment is an opportunity for individual students who currently are looking to improve their letter grade as of 3/13 by the end of the semester. This is not a group project. The project is worth 60 pts. and will fall into the Midterm, Historical Essay, and Project Category. Those who are in the wheel house for an improved letter grade are those with a (D 60% or higher), (C 70% or higher) and (B 80%or higher). That is the cut off and there is no discussion on this point so please don't email me. Your grade has been frozen by the district as of 3/13 P4 grading period. Your opportunity begins with the grade as of 5/14 or what your grade was as of 3/13, which ever was higher.

Prerequisite for an improved letter grade

1. To qualify, all assignments assigned since 3/13 must be completed and turned in by March 22th.

2. You must email me your intentions to submit this assignment by May 18th. If I do not hear from you I assume you are satisfied with your grade as of March 13, 2020.

3. Both the Research Paper and the Documentary Film Trailer must be completed for a total score by June 3rd. The Research Paper will be submitted through and checked for plagiarism. Any flagged paper will be scored a 0 and your Documentary Film Trailer will not be excepted.

4. You are required to send me a working link by June 3st. If I can't view it that day it will not be graded.

5. APA Format

6. No late assignments will be accepted and any flagged papers by will not be accepted.

Objectives Due June 3rd

Students will analyze the effects of the twentieth century on American life, political institutions, economics, foreign policy and culture. They will also investigate how events in the twentieth century influenced America’s position as a world leader, and how global and domestic events created change, and sometimes turmoil, in America itself.

Research Paper 

Documentary Film Trailer 

1. Research Paper will be 8-10 pages, 11 font 1.5 space, submitted through

You’ll produce a minimum 8 page research paper and a documentary film trailer on a decade of the 20th Century of your choosing (1920-1970). This research project takes a different approach to the study of history by inviting you to sit in the driverʼs seat: this time you will be defining the research topic and deciding which sources to consult. You donʼt have to study events or people that are important to others, or derive conclusions that everyone will appreciate. This time you will be deciding which events and questions to study on the basis of your own interest. Start with something you are interested in. Ideally you will choose some emerging idea, trend, movement, etc. that you are into but the rest of us might not yet know about. Or you could put a new twist on something we all think we know enough about but are missing something critical. Or you can choose a historical approach that illuminates the under examined influence of an older popular culture. The topic is open. Your job is to help create a deeper understanding of something most people only know from the outside and far away.

  • Significant events that shaped the era
  • Politics
  • Economics
  • Social Movements or trends
  • Popular Culture
  • Technology
  • Music
  • Sports and Entertainment
  • The Arts

2. Documentary Film Trailer (1:30-2:00)

Each student will produce a documentary film trailer that will summarize your research. Significant events that shaped an era, icons, music, sports and entertainment, and the arts, by locating archived still imagery, film, and audio clips to contribute to the production of the Decades Project documentary trailer. Each film will be uploaded to YouTube.

Final Project Rubric

The Decades Project Topics

1920s The Jazz Age
American Cultural History 1920-1929

The 1920s ushered in an era of great social change, general prosperity, Prohibition and what historians refer to as the Jazz Age. The popular image of the 1920s, as a decade of prosperity and riotous living and of bootleggers and gangsters, flappers and hot jazz, flagpole sitters, and marathon dancers, is indelibly etched in the American psyche. But this image is also profoundly misleading. The 1920s was a decade of deep cultural conflicts, pitting a more cosmopolitan, modernist, urban culture against a more provincial, traditionalist, rural culture. An energetic postwar mentality emerges and old traditions are challenged during the roaring ?20s. Women take bold steps toward equality and an artistic explosion occurs within the African American community that produced a wealth of music, literature poetry, dance, social discourse and visual art.

1930s The Great Depression
American Cultural History 1930-1939

The stock market crash of 1929 ushered in the greatest period of economic malaise in America's history. The Great Depression shaped the atmosphere for a decade; the most prosperous country on earth could not feed its own citizens. The popular culture of the 1930s was fraught with contradictions. It was, simultaneously, a decade of traditionalism and of modernist experimentation; of sentimentality and "hard-boiled" toughness; of longings for a simpler past and fantastic dreams of the future. It was a decade in which many Americans grew increasingly interested in tradition and folk culture. Beset by deep anxieties and insecurities, many Americans in the 1930s hungered for heroes. Popular culture offered many: superheroes like Superman and Batman, who appeared in the new comic books of the '30s; tough, hard-boiled detectives in the fiction of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler; and radio heroes like "The Lone Ranger" or "The Shadow". The Depression was, in certain respects, a powerful unifying experience. A new phrase, "the American way of life," entered the American vernacular. The new photojournalism that appeared in magazines like Life helped to create a common frame of reference.

1940s The Home front
American Cultural History 1940-1949

When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, America was a country steeped in isolationist policies and ill prepared for war. Within a matter of weeks, the country made an amazing turnover from a peacetime nation suffering the final throes of a depression to the most efficient and productive nation in the world. World War II produced important changes in American life, some trivial, others profound. One striking change involved fashion. To conserve wool and cotton, dresses became shorter and vests and cuffs disappeared, as did double-breasted suits, pleats, and ruffles. Women also substituted for men on the home front. For the first time in history, married working women outnumbered single-working women as 6.3 million women entered the work force during the war. The war challenged the conventional image of female behavior, as "Rosie the Riveter" became the popular symbol of women who abandoned traditional female occupations to work in defense industries. After the initial jubilation at the end of World War II, America faced severe domestic demographic problems and the international specter of communism and the Cold War. In response to the serious housing shortages exacerbated by the high marriage rates and subsequent baby boom of returning soldiers and the girls they left behind, the Truman administration created the GI Bill, which enabled veterans to secure low interest mortgages and college educations. But the post war peace could not alleviate the growing fears of the new atomic age and the emerging Cold War.

1950s Happy Days
American Cultural History 1950-1959

The end of World War II brought thousands of young servicemen back to America to pick up their lives and start new families in new homes with new jobs. With energy never before experienced, American industry expanded to meet peacetime needs. Americans began buying goods not available during the war, which created corporate expansion and jobs. The baby boom was underway. The election of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 ushered in one of the most prosperous eras in American history. The shortages of the war were a distant memory as consumers rushed to spend their wartime savings on the new homes, cars and appliances that were now abundant. During the 1950s, a sense of uniformity pervaded American society. Conformity was common, as young and old alike followed group norms rather than striking out on their own. Men expected to be the breadwinners; women, even when they worked, assumed their proper place was at home. The nuclear family as the haven from political and atomic anxiety depended on rigid gender roles and consumption, and television provided the images of themselves that Americans wanted to see. Television contributed to the homogenizing trend by providing young and old with a shared experience reflecting accepted social patterns. But the expanding economy and domestic bliss could not alleviate the growing hysteria of the new atomic age, and a demagogue from Wisconsin, Senator Joseph McCarthy, harnessed this hysteria for his personal political success. Beneath the complacency of the era lurked the indicators of a society waiting to rebel, and the realties of a nation divided by racial and class conflicts. A number of writers, members of the so-called "beat generation," rebelled against conventional values. Stressing spontaneity and spirituality, they asserted intuition over reason, Eastern mysticism over Western institutionalized religion. The "beats" went out of their way to challenge the patterns of respectability and shock the rest of the culture.

1960s Poisoned Dreams
American Cultural History 1960-1969

Some call the 1960?s the era of peace and love while others view it as the decade of discontent. The "Psychedelic Sixties" broke the rules in every conceivable way from music to fashion, to manners and mores. Boundaries were challenged and crossed in literature and art; the government was confronted head-on for its policies in Vietnam; the young embraced the cause of civil rights. The first few years of the 1960s promised a greater, stronger and more unified America than ever. The United States, as the undisputed leader of the free world, straddled the globe like Colossus. But within a few years the optimism of the first years of the decade would vanish, only to be replaced by the uncertainty of a new and unfamiliar world, and the national mourning of a fallen leader. In the years that followed the assassination of John F. Kennedy the United States stood on the brink of domestic conflict and entrenched in the quagmire of the Vietnam War. The years 1963 through 1968 remain some of the most violent and destructive years of American history. Major events of those turbulent years, including the murder of three civil rights workers in 1964, Freedom Summer, student protest and the Students for a Democratic Society, Lyndon Baines Johnson's Great Society, the counterculture, the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, and the 1968 Democratic convention.