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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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Background Essay on Civil War "Contraband"

This essay describes how runaway slaves escaped to Union camps, and how the army formed "contraband camps" to house runaway slaves and their families. 

Background Essay on Eastman Johnson and A Ride for Liberty

This essay describes the circumsances surrounding one of Eastman Johnson's most famous paintings, A Ride for Liberty–The Fugitive Slaves.

Background Information about the Bracero Program

A brief overview of the Bracero program that allowed Mexican agricultural workers to enter the U.S. legally to work as farm laborers.

Background Information on Slavery in the U.S.

These tables and statistics give basic facts about the growth and spread of slavery in the United States and some tables of statistics about slave populations.

Item Type: Article/Essay
Summary of the Emancipation Proclamation

Despite his personal opposition to slavery, when President Abraham Lincoln took office in 1861 he insisted that his constitutional duty was to keep the nation together, not to abolish slavery. He conducted the first year of the war with the goal of [...]

An English Philosopher Explains Why Slavery Intensifies Southerners' Desire for Liberty

In this essay excerpt, British political philosopher and member of Parliament Edmund Burke explains that the existence of slavery in the southern colonies helps to intensify the "fierce spirit of liberty" among white residents who recognize [...]

An Economist Declares Mexicans "An Undesirable Class of Residents"

Discussions of the "Mexican problem" in the early 20th century often revolved around issues of race and culture, much as they did with other immigrant groups. Samuel Bryan published this study of Mexican immigrants in a leading Progressive social [...]

A Social Scientist Urges Americans to Give Mexicans "a Fair Chance in Life"

Progressive social scientists, like economist Alvin S. Johnson, disagreed with those who held Mexican and other immigrants as racially inferior an undesirable. Instead, he and his peers claimed that Mexican government and culture were "inferior" and [...]

W.E.B. DuBois Defines "The Talented Tenth"

At the beginning of the twentieth century, as now, access to quality public education was uneven, and the problem disproportionately impacted African-American children. W.E.B. DuBois, himself highly educated, was sharply critical of Booker T. [...]

An Activist Advocates for Women's Leadership in Improving Black Life

Mary Church Terrell was one of the first African-American women to complete a college degree. Terrell, an educator and activist, also founded the National Association of Colored Women. The National Association was organized into many local [...]