What’s Going On Domestically During the Vietnam War?

Target Audience & Setting: 11th or 12th grade U.S. History class preferably in person.

Content: The Vietnam War was one of the most contentious wars in the history of the United States. Militarily, the conflict quickly descended into a quagmire. While much of the American public presumed that the war would be brief, the conflict persisted for over 10 years, making it the longest war that the United States had ever waged. Moreover, American troops were faced with the physical and emotional scars of a brutal war that killed nearly 50,000 American troops. Domestically, the conflict produced a massive anti-war movement that was embraced by a wide range of groups. In urban centers and college campuses around the country, Americans protested the savagery of the war and demanded that the conflict come to an end. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On captures the domestic toil that Americans endured during the Vietnam era.

Process: Student’s will use the lyrics (and maybe even the tone and melody if students feel the songs convey a message sonically) of Marvin Gaye’s 1971 album What’s Going On as a sources to analyze the domestic toil that the war produced. We will do a think-pair-share arrangement. I will ask groups of 3 to find lyrics and analyze them and place them in the context of the history. They will report back with the significance of the lines and answer the following questions: How does Gaye’s album reflect the domestic unrest that existed during the war? Substantiate your arguments and use additional source to contextualize your arguments.

Resources for Lessons: I will provide links to listen and as well as read the lyrics of the album. I am assuming this class would have already read a book about the Vietnam War earlier in the unit and could draw from that knowledge.

Delivery Considerations: I wrote this considering distance learning and the use of Zoom breakout rooms for students to work in small groups on the analyzing and contextualization of lyrics. Then I would close the rooms and we could discuss as a class our respective findings.

Source for featured image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7c/Marvin_Gaye.jpg

One Reply to “What’s Going On Domestically During the Vietnam War?”

  1. Hi Justin,

    This sounds like a great lesson! I think being able to incorporate music to represent history is the best! Students are able to engage in the content in a different way but relevant way.

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