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America's History in the Making

Global America

In the Video

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Historical Perspectives

Historical Perspectives

During the 1970s, Americans experienced job loss and a decline in public services, which presented an opportunity for conservatives to gain political power by emphasizing the failure of the liberal movement. By 1980, Ronald Reagan had ascended to the presidency, and the Republican Party gained control of the Senate. Behind these right-wing political gains existed internal disagreements between economic conservatives, who advocated minimal government regulation, and social conservatives, who pressed for morality in public life.

Paralleling the conservative movement, a burgeoning rights revolution emerged that focused on group identity. Originating in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, it came to include a plurality of groups whose unifying characteristic extended beyond race or gender, such as homosexuals or people with disabilities. By the 1990s, a reevaluation of the notions of race and culture took place in the United States as more and more immigrants entered the country from Latin America and Asia.

Changes in labor, trade, and business practices from within and without the United States reflected the technological, economic, political, and cultural exchanges produced by globalization.

Faces of America

Faces of America

During the last quarter of the twentieth century and the early years of new millennium, the examples of Phyllis Schlafly, a conservative activist; Shareda Hosein, an Islamic immigrant; and Tulio Serrano, a political refuge, demonstrated the paradoxical forces of divergence and commonality at play in the modern United States.

In response to feminism, Phyllis Schlafly founded the Eagle Forum in an effort to appeal to American women who identified themselves as wives and mothers. Schlafly saw it as her moral duty to espouse family and tradition, and stymie the efforts of feminists to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

Shareda Hosein emigrated from Trinidad after the 1965 reforms that welcomed immigrants from non-European countries. Hosein was an active member of the United States Army since 1979, but her moral and spiritual beliefs fostered an interest in becoming a chaplain. She applied to become the first female Muslim chaplain in the U.S. military but was denied.

In 1989, Tulio Serrano came from a small village in El Salvador. He sought political asylum in the United States from a civil war—funded by U.S. dollars and ammunitions—that displaced millions. Serrano's efforts to obtain citizenship reflected the contradiction the United States presents as both military giant and bastion of political freedom.

Hands on History

Hands on History

How do scientists balance ethics and science when studying DNA?

Theodore Schurr, professor of molecular anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, has spent the last twenty years gathering DNA samples from indigenous peoples from around the world. He has concentrated his efforts on people who have historically lived on the landmasses surrounding North America. Schurr explains how the issue of tribal consent has both hindered and enlightened his research. Read edited Hands on History interview with Theodore Schurr.

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