101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History


When American Heritage suggested last year that I put together the article that became “101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know about American History,” I accepted the assignment eagerly. None of the many articles I have published in this magazine over the years have attracted half so much attention, and I became so absorbed in thinking of items to include that I soon had far more than could fit into an article. I therefore decided to gather still more. I currently have well over a thousand, and the best of these will be published in book form by Doubleday next fall. Here are 101 of what I consider the best of the best.


1 New South.

A term used after the Civil War by Southern publicists and boosters of industrial development in the region as a kind of shorthand for modernization and economic expansion.

2 New Nationalism.

Theodore Roosevelt’s program for regulating big business and expanding the role of the federal government in economic and social matters.

3 New Freedom.

The program of Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 presidential campaign, a counter to Roosevelt’s New Nationalism. It urged the country to rely on competition rather than government regulation to protect the public against economic exploitation. Monopolistic corporations should be broken up by strict enforcement of the antitrust law. Then the competition of the “freed” smaller companies would keep costs and prices down and profits reasonable.

4 New Negro.

A term used in the decade after World War I by black intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance, who stressed racial pride and independence from white influences. In The New Negro (1925) the educator and critic Alain Locke urged blacks to exchange “the status of beneficiary and ward for that of a collaborator and participant in American civilization.”

5 New Era.

The Republican description of the mid-1920s, when wages, profits, and stock prices were on the rise, interest rates were low, and business leaders seemed the embodiment of wisdom and good citizenship. During the New Era, the advertising executive Bruce Barton described Jesus Christ in all seriousness as the “founder of modern business.”

6 New Left.

A 1950s British term, adopted by American radicals in the 1960s, mostly young, who bitterly opposed racism, the Vietnam War, corporate power, and “middle-class” morality. The term was used as a pejorative by many people.

7 The New Immigration.

This term was used by opponents of unrestricted immigration to distinguish the change that occurred in the flow of European immigrants to the United States beginning in the 1880s. Whereas previously the majority had come from northern and western Europe, the “new” immigrants came from southern and eastern sections of the Continent. People who made the distinction claimed that the newcomers were either “unfit” or incapable of being assimilated in the American “melting pot.”


8 O Grab Me.

The word embargo, spelled backward. The term was concocted by opponents of the Embargo Act of 1807, which sought to deal with the impressment of American sailors on the high seas and other violations of the rights of neutrals during the Napoleonic Wars by forbidding virtually all exports to “any foreign port or place.”

9 Corrupt Bargain.

A charge made by supporters of Andrew Jackson before and during the 1828 presidential campaign. In 1824 none of the four candidates won a majority in the Electoral College, but Jackson had the largest total, ninety-nine. John Quincy Adams had eighty-four; William H. Crawford, forty-one; and Henry Clay, thirty-seven. The election was therefore thrown into the House of Representatives, where Clay used his influence to swing the election to Adams. When Adams then appointed Clay his Secretary of State, Rep. George Kremer charged that a “corrupt bargain” had been made.

10 Bleeding Kansas.