Teaching with Special Collections: ‘America Then and Now’

Written by
Emily Judd, Princeton University Library
March 4, 2020

This fall semester, Princeton undergraduates in the team-taught course “America Then and Now” explored the shaping of America through a range of experiences in and outside the classroom. In mid-November, the nearly 100 students in the course visited Princeton University Library’s (PUL) Special Collections to gain hands-on experience in archival research.

The course syllabus brought cultural, social and political history to life through a range of media from books to musical theater, including Childish Gambino’s music video, “This Is America”; Ernesto Chavez’s The U.S. War With Mexico: A Brief History with Documents; Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical and Quiara Alegría Hudes’s book In the Heights; The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America by Beth Lew-Williams, associate professor of history at Princeton; and more.

“America Then and Now” was first taught in 2013 and was designed with the overarching question: What should every Princeton student, upon graduating, know about America? In this gateway course, students gain a broad perspective on America by considering an array of historical and contemporary issues central to the development of this country.

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