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The Preamble to the United States Constitution went through at least two drafts. The first draft and the final draft are included here.

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Item Type: Government Document
Date: 1787

The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed on May 6, 1882, was the first major restriction placed on immigration in the U.S., and the only immigration law that explicitly barred a specific group from entering the country. The Exclusion Act forbade Chinese "skilled and unskilled laborers" from entering the U.S. for a period of ten years, required Chinese who…

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Item Type: Laws/Court Cases
Date: 1882

This short activity helps students compare two drafts of the Preamble to the United States Constitution. It contains scaffolds for low-level readers.

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Item Type: Teaching Activity
Date: 2010

In the midst of debating the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, which concerned the rights of all Americans, regardless of race, to become citizens and vote, Senator Charles Sumner often urged more liberal and democratic application of the law. In 1870, as Congress took up the issue of Chinese immigration, he urged that naturalization laws not…
On January 6, 1865, General William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order #15, which gave millions of acres of land along the Atlantic coast to emancipated slaves, in lots of not more than 40 acres per family. In March 1865, Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania proposed that all planter lands in the former Confederacy be confiscated and…

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Item Type: Speech
Date: 1865

Congress passed the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, outlawing slavery, before the Civil War had ended. Once the war was over, white southerners passed laws (known as Black Codes) to keep freedmen from exercising their rights, and Congress responded by passing a Civil Rights Act in 1866 to ensure black citizenship. Congress overrode President…

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Item Type: Laws/Court Cases
Date: 1865

America fought World War II to preserve freedom and democracy, yet that same war featured the greatest suppression of civil liberties in the nation’s history. In an atmosphere of hysteria, President Roosevelt, encouraged by officials at all levels of the federal government, authorized the internment of tens of thousands of American citizens…

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Item Type: Laws/Court Cases
Date: 1944

During his first two years in office, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress passed programs intended to provide temporary but immediate relief to those who were struggling and restore confidence in the banks. Roosevelt’s critics demanded he keep a balanced budget, so he was unwilling to spend more money than the government took in…

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Item Type: Timeline
Date: 1934

The sign on this car is addressed to the head of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA), which developed electrical infrastructure (power lines, hydroelectric dams) and cooperatives for farmers to buy electricity and electric appliances. Only about 10% of rural Americans had electric power in the early 1930s, compared to 90% of urban Americans. …

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Item Type: Photograph
Date: Circa 1938

Conservative critics of the New Deal disliked the new regulations on businesses and feared the long-term consequences of deficit spending, which they likened to socialism and the end of freedom. Some also expressed nativist or racist feelings that government programs helped people who weren’t “real Americans” and raised…

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Item Type: Diary/Letter
Date: 1937