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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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A Bracero Remembers Working Near Chicago

Having heard about successful braceros, Salvador Esparza Carreño decided to enlist in the bracero program in 1945. He worked as a railroad worker, in the fields cutting asparagus, and as a camp cook. He describes his work and leisure time in [...]

1877: The Grand Army of Starvation Viewer's Guide

This booklet is curriculum support for the American Social History Project's 30-minute documentary 1877: The Grand Army of Starvation. The viewer's guide contains background information on issues raised by the documentary as well as additional [...]

A Native American Chief Explains the Source of Indian-Settler Conflict

Red Cloud, an Oglala Lakota chief, led a two year war against white settlers and railroad outposts between 1866 and 1868. Red Cloud's War, sometimes called the Powder River War, took place in parts of the Wyoming and Montana territories that were [...]

Federal Agents Offer Solutions for "Solving the Sioux Problem"

Native American warriors in the 19th century attacked the various people and institutions that threatened their way of life on the Great Plains. As these reports from various federal agents, including the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and General [...]

Native American Warriors Describe the Threats to their Way of Life

Native American warriors in the 19th century attacked the various people and institutions that threatened their way of life on the Great Plains. In these speeches to federal agents during the Indian Wars of the 1860s, Indian leaders attempt to [...]

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 [...]

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.

The American Frankenstein

Supported by government funds, railroad building boomed after the Civil War. There were only 2,000 miles of track in 1850; by 1877 there were nearly 80,000 miles in use. Railroad owners controlled tens of thousands of employees and hundreds of [...]

Background Essay on Iron Horses and Indians

This essay discusses the impact of the transcontinental railroad on Native American life. It focuses on the role of buffalo hunters in the federal government's policy of Indian removal. This essay, and the related Iron Horse vs. the Buffalo [...]

An African-American Socialist Lends His Support to Railroad Strikers

A nationwide rebellion brought the United States to a standstill in the summer of 1877. Eighty thousand railroad workers walked off the job, joined by hundreds of thousands of Americans outraged by the excesses of the railroad companies and the [...]