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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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The Theater Draws Immigrants and Tourists to Chinatown (with text supports)

During the 1870s and 1880s, San Francisco's Chinatown included as many as four theater companies that regularly performed Chinese operas and other entertainment. Tickets to evening performances usually cost 20-25 cents for Chinese (50 cents for [...]

Background Reading on Colonial Militias

During the colonial era, when there was no national army and few local police, militias were a central part of American life. Militias were groups of local men who organized themselves to defend their communities against threats—they suppressed [...]

A Reformer Describes Child Labor in the Coal Mines

John Spargo's The Bitter Cry of Children, published in 1906, was among the most influential and widely read accounts of child labor written during the Progressive era. Spargo described work at the coal breaker, the area outside the mine where coal [...]

Jacob Riis Describes "The Street Arab"

In this excerpt from How the Other Half Lives, his famous 1890 book about urban poverty, Jacob Riis describes the army of young newsboys and bootblacks who worked and lived in Manhattan's streets. Later in the book, Riis praises the work of the [...]

Charles Dickens Visits Five Points

In 1841, English author Charles Dickens toured the United States. Dickens was known for his sympathetic depictions of the poor and working-class residents of English cities. However, American Notes, which he wrote about his time in the U.S., [...]

Item Type: Book (excerpt)
Charles Dickens Visits Five Points (with text supports)

In 1841, English author Charles Dickens toured the United States. Dickens was known for his sympathetic depictions of the poor and working-class residents of English cities. However, American Notes, which he wrote about his time in the U.S. attacked [...]

Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars (Excerpt)

This excerpt from Elizabeth Ewen's Immigrant Women in the Land of Dollars describes the economic relationships of working-class immigrant families at the turn of the century. The female head of the family played an important economic role, often [...]

Interview with a Puerto Rican Cigarworker in New York

In his memoirs, the Puerto Rican-born cigar maker Bernardo Vega included this interview he conducted with a fellow immigrant about Puerto Rican life in New York during the early part of the twentieth century. In response to Vega's questions, the [...]

Race Relations in the U.S. Southwest

In this excerpt from his book A Different Mirror, historian Ronald Takaki describes the relationships between Mexicans and white Americans in the Southwest. Using quotations from the period, Takaki shows how ordinary Mexicans and Americans [...]

Militant Abolitionists Rescue a Fugitive Slave in Troy, New York

Militant black and white abolitionists organized opposition to the Fugitive Slave Act. In 1859 Harriet Tubman, an ex-slave and leader of the underground railroad, played a central role in rescuing a fugitive slave named Charles Nalle. Nalle, who had [...]