Online Class: American Heroes and Villains

This course will provide a biographical overview of notable American heroes and villains, along with an analysis of why each one is well-known in our history.

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Course Description

America's Pantheon of Heroes and Villains

Every epoch has its marquee names that transcend the annals of history—individuals whose deeds, for better or worse, shape the contours of their nation's saga. The United States, with its rich tapestry of narratives, is no exception. From paragons of virtue to those who danced with their darker selves, the U.S. landscape is peppered with figures who have punctuated its story, leaving indelible marks. But what alchemy of fate, choices, and national zeitgeist elevates someone into the realm of household recognition?

Dive deep into "American Heroes and Villains" to embark on an illuminating journey, one that delves into the intricate interplay of personal choices and societal context. What distinguishes George Washington's statesmanship from Charles Manson's notoriety? How do individuals like Jesse James, a legendary outlaw, and Linus Pauling, a groundbreaking scientist, find themselves immortalized in America's collective psyche?

Our course is not merely a parade of biographies. Instead, it's an exploration, an excavation of the underlying currents that cast certain individuals into the spotlight. Beyond a mere recounting of their lives, we unravel the complex tapestry of historical, societal, and personal factors that enshrined them in the pantheon of American icons.

Through meticulously crafted modules, you will:

  • Delve into captivating biographical overviews of America's luminaries and those who courted controversy.
  • Engage in rich analyses, discerning what renders these individuals iconic in the vast tableau of American history.
  • Understand the multifaceted criteria underpinning the rise (or fall) of these personas in the nation's consciousness.

As we navigate the nuanced terrains of heroism and infamy, this exciting course promises to be more than just a history lesson. It's an invitation to a deeper understanding of the American ethos and the myriad personalities that have sculpted it.

Join us, as we unveil the tales of those who've touched the very soul of America, weaving its narrative of greatness, grit, light, and shadow.

Course Motivation

Parameters for the Course

There are entire fields of study that deal with the psychology of what makes people rise above accepted levels of normalcy to attain fame as either a very good person or a social pariah. This is not that course. Rather, here we will attempt to briefly examine some of the factors that might be involved in shaping who these people were and how they came to be well known to the general public.

Since a comprehensive examination of these factors (especially the effects of a person's name, historical surroundings, and psychology) would literally fill volumes and even shelves in a library, it is well beyond the scope of this course to attempt such a feat here. Rather, we will attempt to scratch the surface of these areas and show how they might be relevant to the material presented in later chapters, a departure point for further studies, if you will.

How the Course is Structured 

This course will provide a brief biographical sketch of a number of individuals who have become famous in American history as either heroes (those who have won popular favor and have a strong identity with societal and national values) or villains (those who flagrantly broke the law, the public trust, or otherwise alienated themselves from society).

In some rare cases, certain people cannot be easily classified as either, or are classified as both hero and villain depending on whether or not there is a widespread divergence in public opinion regarding the achievements in their life. For example, Aaron Burr may have been a hero to some, but a villain to others based on the events in his life. These ambiguous personalities will be placed in their own separate section at the end of each lesson, where applicable.

Each lesson that follows will be organized by era of American history. For the purposes of this course, we will divide the timeline as follows, Early America, Colonial America, Revolutionary America, The Young Republic, Expansion and Reform Era, Civil War and Reconstruction, The Wild West and the Second Industrial Revolution, World War I, World War II and the Korean war, Post War to the End of the Century, and The New Millennium.

Each entry within each historical era will appear as follows.

Name. The name of the person highlighted.

Role. Hero or Villain (or It Depends).

Area. This is the area of society that this individual pertains to, industry, politics, military, entertainment, and so on. An example of categories used here are Political Leader, Entertainer, Industrialist, Terrorist, and others.

Bio. The main section of each person's entry will contain biographical and historical data related to that person. This section basically tells why he or she is considered a hero or a villain with regards to the United States.

Trivia. On occasion, a tidbit of interesting information will be featured here. There may not be a trivia section for all the people referenced in the course, however.

Quotes. Famous (or infamous) quotes either spoken by the person at hand or about them are provided here. This is to give a more complete sense of who this person is or was, using their own words. Not every person will have a quote from or about them.

What's in a Name?

There is a great deal of debate regarding whether or not a person's name has any effect on their personality. If a person is named Patience, does that mean they will be more patient (or guarantee they will be impatient)? If Adolf Hitler were called Bob Hitler, would that have made any significant impact on his legacy of evil? While there are studies to support the case and those that deny it, the jury is still out on this aspect of human life. However, a few facts seem germane to our study here, namely,

Carpe Diem: A Note about the Times

The times in which a person lives is an important component of shaping how they live their lives and, ultimately, creating who they will become. For example, Alexander Graham Bell could not have invented the telephone without the prior inventions and discoveries that had gone before him. He, of course, could not have invented it after it had already been invented, either, so the window of opportunity for distinguishing himself could only be found in a very narrow historical time period.

The Psychology of Greatness

According to Friedrich Nietzsche, there are certain people in our world who are born for greatness. He called these individuals Übermensch (or "over men"), and claimed that they were imbued with certain qualities that propelled them to greatness above the masses. Whether or not this philosophical position is entirely true still remains a matter for debate. What is not debatable, however, is that some people do seem predisposed to distinguish themselves in one way or another, far more so than their contemporaries. Those who do so in positive ways are considered heroes; those who do so in evil or socially unacceptable ways are forever branded as villains.

  • Completely Online
  • Self-Paced
  • Printable Lessons
  • Full HD Video  
  • 6 Months to Complete
  • 24/7 Availability
  • Start Anytime
  • PC & Mac Compatible
  • Android & iOS Friendly
  • Accredited CEUs
Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

Course Lessons

Average Lesson Rating:
4.7 / 5 Stars (Average Rating)
"Extraordinarily Helpful"
(1,075 votes)

Lesson 1. An Introduction to America's Heroes and Villains

This lesson will establish the basic learning parameters for the course. 34 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video A
  • Lesson 1 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Lesson discussions: Heros and Villains; Reasons for Taking this Course
  • Complete: Lesson 1 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 1: An Introduction to America’s Heroes and Villains

Lesson 2. Early America

We will concern ourselves here with the period of history after Europeans first discovered the New World beginning, of course, in 1492 AD. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video A
  • Lesson 2 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 2 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 2: Early America

Lesson 3. Colonial America

Once the European powers decided that the New World was more valuable as a resource in and of itself, they slowed their search for a route to Asia and began to establish colonies in the lands that they had discovered. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video A
  • Lesson 3 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 3 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 3: Colonial America

Lesson 4. Revolutionary America, Part I

The Revolutionary Period of American history is the point in history where America begins to gain an identity of its own. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video A
  • Lesson 4 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 4 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 4: Revolutionary America, Part I

Lesson 5. Revolutionary America, Part II

This lesson continues the overview of American heroes and villains from the Revolutionary War period that lasted from 1763 to 1783 AD. Additional lesson topics: John Adams 34 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video A
  • Lesson 5 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 5 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 5: Revolutionary America, Part II

Lesson 6. The Young Republic

Following the Revolutionary War, America was still searching for its identity as a nation and trying to stabilize after a lengthy military conflict with the British Empire. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video A
  • Lesson 6 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Lesson discussions: Historical Era
  • Complete: Lesson 6 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 6: The Young Republic

Lesson 7. Expansion and Reform Era

As the country fended off the British again in the War of 1812, it became apparent that no further threats would be coming from Europe in the ensuing years. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video A
  • Lesson 7 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 7: Expansion and Reform Era

Lesson 8. Civil War and Reconstruction

As the years wore on the country seemed on an inescapable path toward Civil War, and it was. 34 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video A
  • Lesson 8 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 8: Civil War and Reconstruction

Lesson 9. The Wild West and the Second Industrial Revolution

Following the Civil War and the Reconstruction period of American history, a new wave of industrialization swept across the land. 55 Total Points
  • Lesson 9 Video A
  • Lesson 9 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 9 Assignment
  • Complete Assignment: Henry Ford Racist?
  • Assessment: Lesson 9: The Wild West and the Second Industrial Revolution

Lesson 10. World War I

With Europe erupting into a full scale war, the United States reluctantly joined the fray toward the end of the Great War or World War I, as it later came to be called. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 10 Video A
  • Lesson 10 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 10 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 10: World War I

Lesson 11. World War II and Korea

World War II was a difficult time in America. Fighting a major war in two theatres (Europe and the Pacific), Americans were desperate for heroes, and villains who they could blame all the fighting on. 34 Total Points
  • Lesson 11 Video A
  • Lesson 11 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 11 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 11: World War II and Korea

Lesson 12. Post War to the End of the Century, Part I

Following the conclusion of World War II, America underwent the longest peace time boom of any nation on Earth. Additional lesson topics: SI's Several Facts about Miracle on Ice 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 12 Video A
  • Lesson 12 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 12 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 12: Post War to the End of the Century, Part I

Lesson 13. Post War to the End of the Century, Part II

This lesson is a continuation of the heroes and villains from the end of World War II to the end of the twentieth century. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 13 Video A
  • Lesson 13 Video B : Lesson Discussion
  • Complete: Lesson 13 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 13: Post War to the End of the Century, Part II

Lesson 14. The New Millennium

The New Millennium brings with it a number of challenges that have never been faced before in human history. 33 Total Points
  • Lesson 14 Video
  • Lesson discussions: Hero; Villain; Program Evaluation Follow-up Survey (End of Course); Course Comments
  • Complete: Lesson 14 Assignment
  • Assessment: Lesson 14: The New Millennium
Total Course Points

Learning Outcomes

By successfully completing this course, students will be able to:
  • Define what it means to be considered an American hero or villain.
  • Summarize American heroes and villains in early America.
  • Summarize American heroes and villains in the Expansion and Reform Era.
  • Summarize American heroes and villains in the Civil War and Reconstruction.
  • Summarize American heroes and villains in The Wild West and the Second Industrial Revolution.
  • Summarize American heroes and villains in World War I, World War II and the Korean War
  • Summarize American heroes and villains in Post War to the End of the Century
  • Post War to the End of the Century, Part II
  • Demonstrate mastery of lesson content at levels of 70% or higher.

Additional Course Information

Online CEU Certificate
  • Document Your Lifelong Learning Achievements
  • Earn an Official Certificate Documenting Course Hours and CEUs
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Document Your CEUs on Your Resume
Course Title: American Heroes and Villains
Course Number: 8900124
Lessons Rating: 4.7 / 5 Stars (1,075 votes)
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Availability: This course is online and available in all 50 states including: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Texas, and Washington.
Last Updated: October 2023
Course Type: Self-Paced, Online Class
CEU Value: 0.8 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Course Fee: $120.00 U.S. dollars

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Student Testimonials

  • "I loved the instructor videos, giving information and talking about time frames and the topic we were currently learning about." -- Angela C.
  • "Excellent instructor." -- Deborah D.
  • "The instructor is very knowledgeable." -- Judy R.
  • "This was a FANTASTIC course! I learned so much that I didn't even know I was interested in. The best part was being able to pick which hero or villain you could write about. In figuring out which one to write about, I learned a tremendous amount about the other people in the assignments." -- Donna N.
  • "Instructor McKenna was well equipped to handle questions I had" -- Randall M.
  • "Mac was an excellent instructor, very interactive. I hope to run into him again." -- L T.