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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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Drawing of an African Burial Ground Grave In Situ

In 1991, workers constructing a new federal government building in lower Manhattan unearthed human remains. Maps from the colonial period showed a "Negro burial ground" on the site, then located outside of the city. An archaeologic study was [...]

President Johnson Seeks Foreign Policy Advice on Vietnam

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson became increasingly preoccupied with U.S. involvement in Vietnam and sought advice from longtime political allies. In this telephone conversation with friend and advisor, Senator Richard Russell of Georgia, [...]

First Decennial Census of the United States, 1790

The first national census showed a total population of 3.9 million people. The results, gathered by U.S. marshals on horseback, were divided into categories of "free white males of 16 years and upwards," "free white males under fifteen years," "free [...]

The Deputy Director of the CIA Advises on the Situation in Nicaragua

In a memorandum to Director of Central Intelligence William J. Casey, CIA Deputy Director Robert Gates offers "straight talk" about Nicaragua. In the memo, Gates concedes that the CIA-backed Contras cannot overthrow the Sandinista government. He [...]

President Cleveland Vetoes a Law Restricting Immigration

In 1897 President Grover Cleveland vetoed legislation requiring a literacy test for would-be immigrants proposed by Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, declaring, "I cannot believe that we would be protected against these [alleged evils of [...]

Rosa Parks Takes a Stand Against Segregation

Rosa Parks gained international fame in 1955 for refusing to give up her seat in the "whites-only" section on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Parks, an employee of the Montgomery Fair department store and secretary for the NAACP, later said [...]

Tags: Boycotts
Security Handbook for Freedom Summer Workers

A copy of the Security Handbook given to participants in the "Freedom Summer" campaign in Mississippi in 1964 highlights the dangers that young civil rights workers were exposed to. Tragically, the precautions suggested by the handbook proved [...]

A U.S. Diplomat Writes a "Long Telegram"

The famous "Long Telegram" was a message sent by George F. Kennan, a high-ranking diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, that provided an assessment of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the Cold War. In February 1946, the United States Treasury [...]

Tags: Cold War
New Amsterdam Grants "Half Freedom" to Slaves

In the 1640s, a group of enslaved Africans petitioned the Dutch West India Company for their freedom. The company's director-general, William Kieft, agreed to grant them "half freedom" (their children were not free and they owed an annual payment to [...]

Thomas Jefferson Decries Slavery in a Draft of the Declaration of Independence

The passage below was included in Thomas Jefferson's first draft of the Declaration of Independence as one of the grievances against King George III of England. Jefferson, a slave owner himself, later wrote in his autobiography that this passage [...]