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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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"Halsted Street Car"

Carl Sandburg was born in Galesburg, Illinois, to a poor Swedish immigrant family. After leaving home at the age of thirteen, Sandburg drifted, working odd jobs, traveling as a hobo, and serving in the Spanish-American War. A fellow soldier [...]

Item Type: Fiction/Poetry
"God Save Our Noble Union"

The Staunton Spectator was a Whig newspaper that opposed Virginia's secession from the Union. Despite their state's subsequent status as the seat of the Confederacy, Virginians, like many residents of the Upper South, remained divided over the issue [...]

Chinese Immigrants Write Poems in the "Wooden Barracks"

At Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay, Chinese immigrants were detained for weeks or even months in the so-called "Wooden Barracks" as they awaited processing. Faced with poor conditions, humiliating treatment, and homesickness, [...]

"Chicago"

Carl Sandburg's free verse celebrated ordinary people and American landscapes both rural and urban. Sandburg, the son of Swedish immigrants, was active in Socialist politics and saw himself as the poet of working people.

Item Type: Fiction/Poetry
The Jungle (Excerpt)

Upton Sinclair's novel about immigrant workers in Chicago's meatpacking plants shocked readers when it was first published in 1906. Sinclair hoped the novel would awaken Americans to the evils of capitalism; the main character Jurgis ends the novel [...]

"Aunt Chloe's Politics" (Excerpt)

Francis Ellen Watkins Harper's career spanned the critical period in American history from abolition to women's suffrage, and she cared deeply about both. Harper frequently centered her writing on political issues and, conversely, incorporated her [...]

"Goddess of Liberty, Answer"

This poem refers to the Statue of Liberty, and appears to be a response to Emma Lazarus's poem "The New Colossus." The location mentioned by the author, "Sandy Hook," is on the coast of New Jersey, and signifies the border of the U.S. beyond which [...]

"Living"

John Boyle O'Reilly was an Irish-born poet and novelist who escaped to America from Western Australia, where he had been imprisoned for being a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, or Fenians. One of his later poems, "Living" (1881) connotes [...]

"John Boyle O'Reilly"

Paul Laurence Dunbar was an African-American poet who gained national recognition after the 1896 publication of his Lyrics of a Lowly Life. In this 1893 ode to fellow poet John Boyle O'Reilly, Dunbar lavishes praise on a man he calls "the noblest [...]

"I Am the Little Irish Boy"

Henry David Thoreau is one of America's best-loved poets and authors, known especially for his work Walden, with its meditations on nature. In this 1850 poem, Thoreau turns his attentive eye to a "little Irish boy," destined for a life of manual [...]

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