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Herb - social history for every classroom

menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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A Historian Explains the Significance of the Fugitive Slave Act

Historian Eric Foner explains why the Fugitive Slave Act was such a divisive political act and a turning point in the sectional conflicts that had plagued American society during the antebellum era. Foner also describes the role of former slaves in [...]

A Reformer Praises the Carlisle School

Richard Pratt, an officer of the United States Cavalry, became obsessed with the assimilation of Indians into U.S. "civilization." Pratt believed that Indians could only survive if they adapted the values of the white man; it was necessary to "kill [...]

"OSHA at Forty"

This short article by public health historians David Rosner and Gerald Markowitz reflects on the fortieth anniversary of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, passed in 1970. OSHA is one of the most important pieces of labor legislation ever [...]

George A. Croffut Explains the Print "American Progress"

Entrepreneur George A. Croffut published several tourist guides and manuals encouraging Americans to visit and settle in the West. His guides prominently featured the expanding railroad network as the best way to explore the vast territory beyond [...]

What is Social Security?

This brief overview describes how the Social Security program originated during the Great Depression and how the program works.

Background Reading on Segregated Buses

This short reading can help students and teachers understand the experience of riding segregated public transportation.

Item Type: Article/Essay
What were Winter Counts?

This background essay, adapted from a Smithsonian Institution online exhibit, provides information about the Winter Count calendars kept by many Lakota Indian bands.

Item Type: Article/Essay
Background Essay on Who Freed the Slaves?

This essay introduces you to the main forces behind the abolition of slavery in the United States, as well as the debate among historians as to who played the key role.

Background Essay on Building the Railroads

This essay explains how railroads transformed late-nineteenth century America and shows how their impact was felt differently across class and racial lines.

Background Essay on Creating an Empire

This essay re-introduces an often forgotten event—the Philippine-American War—and explains contemporary debates around the war and the ascencion of the United States to the ranks of colonial powers.