What War Does – Oct 18

by admin - October 16th, 2018

In Alexander Keyssar’s book, The Right to Vote, he argues:

Nearly all of the major expansions of the franchise that have occurred in American history took place either during or in the wake of wars. The historical record indicates that this was not a coincidence: the demands of both war itself and preparedness for war created powerful pressures to enlarge the right to vote… While it may seem less exceptional and romantic than the frontier, without doubt war played a greater role in the evolution of American democracy (p. xxiv)

For Thursday’s class, we’ll put his claim to the test.

Using Goldstein-Shirley’s short essay in Reader Day 13 as a starting point, let’s look at what happened to voting rights and other basic civil rights of citizenship because of World War I (1917-1919) and World War II (1941-1945). Our particular case studies are Native Americans who served in uniform and Asian Americans, but other categories suggest themselves as well: Wilson’s “silent sentinels” and women who opposed World War I like Jeanette Rankin; European immigrants deemed subversive and treasonous during the 1918-1919 Red Scare, including those prosecuted in the Schenck case and the 249 who were deported to Russia (some of them citizens!) in 1919; young people between the ages of 18-21 who gained the right to vote during the Vietnam war; etc.

Reminder: please make sure you have participated in a research meeting about your CITIZEN project by this date!

(image: a soldier guarding Japanese Americans in a World War II internment camp in northern California)

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