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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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"What Does the Negro Want?" African-American Demands for Citizenship

Professor John R. Hawkins wrote this short pamphlet on behalf of the NAACP. In it he outlines African Americans' demands for justice and equality at home following World War I. The NAACP makes 14 demands in response to Wilson's "14 Points," in [...]

Item Type: Article/Essay
"Our Challenge is to Keep Willie's Memory Alive"

William (Willie) Velásquez founded the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP) in 1974. The son of a butcher from San Antonio, Texas, he spent his adult life as a community organizer and political activist.  Inspired by the [...]

A Black New Yorker Describes Life in a CCC Camp

Luther C. Wandall, an African American from New York City, wrote the following account of life in a segregated Civilian Conservation Corps camp for Crisis, the magazine of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Wandall tells [...]

Background Essay on Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine

This short essay describes Jacob Riis and Lewis Hines, two important documentary photographers of the turn of the twentieth century.

Background Information on the Events at Wounded Knee

This essay outlines the events leading the massacre of Sioux Indians at Wounded Knee, including the role of Ghost Dancers, and the chaotic violence that ensued on December 29, 1890.

Background Essay on the New York City Draft Riots

The worst episode of large-scale urban violence in American history, the New York City draft riots were sparked by the passage of conscription laws which made thousands of male New Yorkers between the ages of 18 and 45 eligible to be drafted into [...]

"Growing Up in Down Times: Children of the Great Depression"

This essay provides historical perspective on the social, political, and economic circumstances of the Great Depression. It suggests some ways the hard times of the 1930s affected young people and left their mark on them as adults.

Background Essay on the Historiography of Slavery

This essay explains the shift in slavery historiography and how this continuing shift influenced the development of the Doing as They Can documentary.

Item Type: Article/Essay
Background Essay on San Francisco's Chinatown

This short essay describes the origins of San Francisco's Chinatown, as well as some of its major economic, political, and social facets. The essay also describes the challenges San Francisco's Chinese community faced from the city's white [...]

Background Essay on the "Twenty Negro" Law

The so-called "Twenty Negro Law," enacted by the Confederate Congress in 1862, allowed an exemption from military service for slaveholders who owned twenty or more slaves. In effect, this allowed large plantation owners and overseers to avoid [...]