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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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An Early Colonist Describes "the Nature and Manners" of the Algonquian People

Thomas Hariot was an astronomer and mathematician who traveled to Roanoke Island on one of Sir Walter Raleigh's early expeditions to the New World. Encountering local Indian populations, Harriot learned the Algonquian language and later published an [...]

"Don't Buy Where You Can't Work": Political Activism in Depression-Era Harlem

This text highlights the growth of political activism that took place in Harlem during the Great Depression. Discriminatory hiring practices and widespread unemployment triggered job campaigns focused on increasing black employment in the largely [...]

An English-Chinese Phrase Book

This phrase book was published in 1875 and distributed at Wells Fargo bank offices throughout the West, in cities and towns where Chinese immigrants lived and worked. Modeled on the traditional Chinese method of memorizing and reciting "sets" of [...]

An Author Encourages Direct Action Among Young People of Color

During the Black Freedom Struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, African Americans were consciously changing the meaning of what it meant to be Black in America. Engaging in activism was often dangerous, and required immense sacrifice that took a lot of [...]

Item Type: Book (excerpt)
An Author Defines Chicano Rights

This short excerpt was part of a book-length conversation between Amalia Mesa-Bains and bell hooks, two writers who both explore issues of race, gender, and identity in their work. Home Grown takes the reader through that conversation as they talk [...]

Item Type: Book (excerpt)
An Scottish Explorer Discovers a Northwest Passage

Alexander Mackenzie was an English explorer in North America who discovered a Northwest Passage through Canada to the Pacific in 1793. Although praised for his efforts, the route he mapped out was too difficult to sustain real trade or further [...]

A Member of the Ladies' Home Missionary Society Visits a Five Points Family

The Five Points Mission grew out of several Protestant missionary organizations that aimed to improve conditions in the Five Points. At first they attempted to convert residents from Catholicism; later the Mission obtained pledges from Five Pointers [...]

Visitors Describe the Five Points Neighborhood

Many visitors—journalists, reformers, middle-class tourists hoping to brush up against the masses—traveled through the Five Points neighborhood in Manhattan in the nineteenth century. They left these observations.

Item Type: Book (excerpt)
A Five Points "Orphan" Is Taken In by Reverend Pease and the Five Points House of Industry

The Five Points House of Industry was organized by the Methodist minister Lewis M. Pease and headquartered in a notorious former slum building known as the Old Brewery. It was the first missionary effort in the neighborhood to offer vocational [...]

Robber Barons Advance Railroad Policy

A passage from Matthew Josephson's The Robber Barons outlines the often unsavory history of the railroad industry in America. As Josephson tells it, the history of the railroads traced a trajectory of corruption, scandal, popular outrage, largely [...]

Tags: railroads
Item Type: Book (excerpt)