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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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A Railroad Titan Explains Why the Chinese are Good for White Workers

The "divide-and-conquer" tactics used by bosses pitted different ethnic groups against one another and native-born workers against all immigrants. It often worked out better for white workers than for Asians. Charles Crocker, one of the "Big Four" [...]

Growers Explain Why They Hire Immigrant Workers

Many bosses deliberately hired workers who did not share common languages or ethnic backgrounds. Here, a manager of a Hawaii sugar plantation explains this anti-labor tactic to a Honolulu commission investigating strike activity. Other growers had [...]

A Senator Calls for a More Democratic Immigration System

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 [...]

Exploring Slave Life Through Found Poetry

In this lesson students look at primary source images and read short secondary texts to understand slave life.  In the activity, the teacher models and students practice differentiating between different types of text (primary, secondary, etc.) [...]

New York City Draft Riots Role Play worksheet

These worksheets help students prepare for role plays of black and Irish New Yorkers debating their actions during the New York City draft riots of 1863. The worksheets accompany the activity "The New York City Draft Riots: A Role Play."

A Former Slave Recalls Slave Quarters and Moments of Leisure

Masters and slaves viewed slave quarters very differently. While masters sought to create an ordered world where their control was complete, slaves attempted to create homes, grow food and raise families. Former slaves describe growing flowers, [...]

Item Type: Photograph
"Five Generations on Smith's Planation, Beaufort, South Carolina"

This African-American family was photographed in 1862 after Union forces captured the Sea Island coastal area of South Carolina. One of four photographs taken by Timothy O’Sullivan of the J. J. Smith plantation, this picture was subsequently [...]

Item Type: Photograph
California Workingmen Feel Threatened by Chinese Laborers

California held a series of anti-Chinese conventions in the 1860s, 1870s and 1880s. After Chinese immigration was forbidden by federal law in 1882, white laborers organized boycotts of Chinese-owned businesses and won pledges from state leaders not [...]

"Meanings of Freedom": Voices of Freedpeople worksheet

This worksheet contains quotations from freedpeople talking about different aspects of their lives, including land ownership, education, family, the law, and klan violence. Students are asked to interpret the statements and rephrase them in their [...]

An Indian Politician Debates the Limitations of Communism

Writing from a British prison in 1941, Jawaharlal Nehru, the future post-Independence prime minister of India, attempts to explain his political outlook. In these excerpts, Nehru gives particular vent to his thoughts on Communism and the Soviet [...]

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