With over 12 billion documents in the National Archives, our records have countless stories to tell.
Even with just three types of documents—a passenger arrival record, census record and a naturalization record—one can learn quite a bit about a person’s life. And students have the opportunity to uncover these stories during a hands-on field trip at the National Archives at New York City.
Take Luther Powell, for instance. A 1920 passenger arrival record, a 1930 census record, and naturalization records from 1929 and 1936 provide snapshots of four different times in his life.
Passenger Arrival Manifest that lists Luther Powell (line 5)
Luther Powell arrived in the United States from Jamaica in April 1920. After six days aboard the Manchioneal, he arrived in Philadelphia as a 22 year-old clerk with $80 in his pocket. He had left his father Aubrey Powell to make a new life for himself in New York City. He probably chose New York because his uncle lived there at West 131st Street.
1930 Census page that includes Luther Powell (line 13)
Though he only intended to stay in the US for four years, a census taker in 1930 found Luther at 196 Bradhurst Avenue in New York City. Perhaps Ariel had something to do with him staying. Luther Powell and Ariel were married just a year earlier in 1929. Working as a shipping clerk and a dressmaker respectively, Luther and Ariel rented their place in Upper Manhattan for $70 a month. They must have made enough to have some disposable income—they did own a radio.
Luther Powell’s Declaration of Intention
Luther Powell’s Petition of Naturalization
Though he had declared his intent to become a US citizen in 1929, he wouldn’t become a citizen until taking his oath of allegiance on December 1, 1936. By that time, Luther and Ariel had a 5 year-old daughter Marilyn and were living a couple miles south at 20-21 Morningside Avenue.
Luther Powell is just one of the people featured in the National Archives at New York City’s Hands-On Archives: Exploring America’s Diversity student field trip. Every year, hundreds of students in grades 4 through 8 explore the lives of Luther Powell, Florence Campbell, John King, Miguel Minan, Motel Garber and other real life New Yorkers.
Armed with a magnifying lens and an archival box filled with their passenger arrival, census and naturalization record, the students look for clues about these people’s lives. They end up discovering a lot about the similarities and differences between these different people and between the past and the present. Students are always surprised by certain major differences—such as the length of the immigrant’s journey to the US (still over two weeks in some cases) and the cost to rent an apartment in 1930 New York City (as low as $23 in some places).
While the full story of each person’s life is still left incomplete after uncovering just these four documents, as a post-visit activity students could create a short informative writing about their person’s life.
Now that we can check into the life of Luther Powell in the 1940 Census, we do get a bit more of his family’s story. In 1937, Luther had a son who would grow up to be a soldier, general, National Security Advisor, Chairman of the Joints Chief of Staff and Security of State. That son, of course, was Colin Powell.
Secretary of State Colin Powell with President George W. Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice
To find out more about this Hands-On Archives field trip opportunity at the National Archives at New York City, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-866-840-1752.
Today’s post comes from education intern Stephen Pearson.
Over two days earlier this month, students arrived at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, ready to compete. There was excitement and nervous energy in the air. Both the students and history came to life through dynamic performances, stirring documentaries, and eye-popping exhibits, just to name a few.
A student introducing her documentary to a team of judges
These projects were all part of the year-long National History Day program. Over a thousand students had competed in school-level competitions to make it to the DC competition at the National Archives. Two hundred and fifteen students from seven different DC schools shared their documentaries, exhibit boards, performances, papers, and even websites. Members of the history and National Archives community volunteered for two days to interview the student competitors and ultimately judge their work. For the top projects, this DC National History Day competition was a step toward “Nationals.”
An exhibit board illustrating the impact of the first moon landing
The topic of this year’s National History Day program was “Turning Points in History.” Students made some compelling arguments about why their project’s topic was a turning point. One student—the final contestant showing off his website at the very end of the judging schedule—paced back and forth throughout a whole morning. He ended up winning first in his section, as well as a special award for great use of primary sources.
Other than the theme, one thing tied the different forms of media together: Documents. Primary sources were used extensively for the projects. And there could be no more fitting a venue than the National Archives, where students competed in the same building as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Judges deliberating over a project well after the audience and student left
A volunteer, here to help National Archives staff ensure the competition ran smoothly, commented “I was impressed by the variety of topics: the Battle of Stalingrad, Irish Potato famine, comedy in television, to name a few. It wasn’t just major themes in history, but specific events related to the theme of the day. I was inspired by their engagement with history and excitement for their topic.”
Another volunteer expressed surprise at the level at which the students were competing. He compared their experiences to ones they would have in college: being interviewed and questioned about their topics, projects, and even historical sources.
Culminating with an awards ceremony on the second day, the top three students for each media type were recognized, and some projects with outstanding qualities received special awards. The top two projects and their creators, for each media type, will move on to compete at the national competition in College Park, Maryland, in June.
Letter from Annie Davis to Abraham Lincoln, 8/25/1864. From the Records of the Adjutant General’s Office. National Archives Identifier 4662543.
“Mr. President, It is my Desire to be free.”
Thus wrote (another – not me!) Annie Davis to Abraham Lincoln, 20 months after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation. Writing from Belair, Maryland, she continued, “Will you please let me know if we are free.”
But she was not. The Emancipation Proclamation affected only those states that were in rebellion as of January 1, 1863. The slaveholding border states of Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri were not affected by the Proclamation. Annie would become free in November 1864, when the re-written Maryland state constitution ended slavery. The rest of the enslaved people would gain freedom within 1865.
This terrific document in the holdings of the National Archives provides much opportunity for teaching and learning. Just reading Annie’s letter is enough to feel her longing for freedom. And by using it in the classroom, we can help our students better understand the emotions, historic details, and impact of the fight for freedom.
The 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the movement towards the 13th Amendment are foremost in our minds these days. But emancipation came neither suddenly nor easily. The question of slavery and freedom is older than our country. It is part of the fabric of this nation; it was prominent in the debate about Independence and the Constitution. It is still with us.
Evidence of the fight for freedom lives in the National Archives. These stories, often embedded in legal language, are both heart-breaking and heart-warming. We find court cases of owners trying to get back their “property,” warrants for the arrest of fugitives, bills of sale, and citizens using the law to create new law. These records offer unlimited opportunities for teaching and learning and inspiration.
To access documents, I direct students and teachers to DocsTeach.org to simply search on “slavery.” A huge array of diverse documents and good activities will be at your fingertips.
In a recent workshop, teachers at the National Archives at Boston examined records of fugitive slaves and developed several essential questions upon which to build instruction:
- When is it appropriate to defy the law?
- Would I ever have the courage to risk everything for something I believed in?
- Why is the Compromise of 1850 a compromise?
For visiting middle- and high-school students, I provided these records of fugitive slaves. Working together in groups, the students addressed a series of document-based questions (scaffolding). Then, they created a thesis statement in response to the essential questions. Independently, they used the thesis statement supported by evidence from the documents to construct a paragraph or essay. The teachers used this as the culminating activity and the assessment.
Students like to discuss the question, Would I have helped the fugitives? We all like to think that in difficult times, we would have the courage to do the right thing. But the right thing is easier to define with hindsight and a knowledge of history. In the moment, what would you do?
The stories of the fight for freedom and the knowledge of how far we have come help us understand where we are now and how far we have yet to go on our stony path to freedom and unalienable rights.
On June 24-25, 2013, the National Archives at Boston will offer a free workshop for teachers: “Fighting for Freedom at Home and On the Front: Boston’s Struggle for Freedom 1806-1865.” For more information, contact us at email@example.com.
And you or your students can read more in “The Meaning and Making of Emancipation,” a free eBook that presents the Emancipation Proclamation in its social and political context with documents in the National Archives’ holdings that illustrate the efforts of the many Americans, enslaved and free, white and black, by whom slavery was abolished in the United States.
In celebration, the National Archives has teamed up with other federal agencies and cultural institutions to provide digital content, including resources for teachers.
Along with the Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, we pay tribute “to the generations of Jewish Americans who have helped form the fabric of American history, culture and society” on jewishheritagemonth.gov; and “to the generations of Asian and Pacific Islanders who have enriched America’s history and are instrumental in its future success” on asianpacificheritage.gov.
Both sites include images, audio, video, exhibits and collections, as well as a list of upcoming events in 2013.
This 2010 Census poster was made to create awareness of the coming census and assure Native Hawaiians that their responses would be confidential. (From the Records of the Bureau of the Census. National Archives Identifier 6094524)
For Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month, the National Archives highlights a Flickr set of photos and documents, our Prologue magazine articles such as “An Alleged Wife: One Immigrant in the Chinese Exclusion Era” and “Revisiting Korea: Exposing Myths of the Forgotten War,” and primary sources like the Joint Resolution to Provide for Annexing the Hawaiian Islands to the United States. Our partner organizations share great sites too, like the Veterans History Project at the Library of Congress, with a collection of stories from Asian-Pacific American Veterans.
Specifically for teachers, we provide primary sources related to
This 1917 poster was printed in Yiddish and several other languages to target immigrants. It urges food conservation: “Food will Win the War. You came here seeking freedom. You must now help to preserve it. Wheat is needed for the Allies. Waste Nothing.” (From the Records of the U.S. Food Administration. National Archives Identifier 512541)
For Jewish American Heritage Month, the National Archives shares images on Flickr, recorded public programs such as “World War II Lost Jewish Assets” and “When General Grant Expelled the Jews” on our YouTube channel, documents related to the creation of the state of Israel, and more primary sources related to Jewish history.
Just one of the many interesting resources from our partner organizations on jewishheritagemonth.gov is “Shop Life,” an exhibit from The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities, that invites visitors to explore commerce at 97 Orchard Street in lower Manhattan from 1863 to 1988.
During Teacher Appreciation Week, and especially today on National Teacher Appreciation Day, we give thanks to teachers for all their hard work educating and guiding students.
At Murch Elementary School in Washington, D.C., 6th-grade teacher Catherine M. Rooney instructs students about War Ration Book Two in 1943. From the collection of Public Domain Photographs at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.
As we said on Today’s Document—our sister site showcasing daily featured documents, it’s always Teacher Appreciation Week at the National Archives!
Our Education Specialists work year-round to provide teachers with free resources for teaching with primary sources. From DC to our National Archives and Presidential Library locations around the country, we create and share lesson plans, learning activities, field trip and professional development opportunities, and multimedia and web content. We’ll continue to tell you about our new and existing resources right here.
And if you don’t already, you can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
This week we’re featuring teachers at work, as seen in the holdings of the National Archives, on our Facebook page.
Remember to #ThankATeacher today!
Today’s post comes from Kris Jarosik, education specialist at the National Archives at Chicago, working alongside Ang Reidell, education specialist at the National Archives at Philadelphia.
There was a time when the U.S. government seized photos and pamphlets and confiscated contraception sent through the mail. Thousands were charged with breaking federal law and over 500 cases were prosecuted in Chicago alone during a forty-year span. The 1872 Comstock Act prohibited sending “obscene” materials—including birth control information or products—through the mail.
“Miss Flossy Lee” from the 1891 case U.S. v. Dunton
Learn more about the men and women who pushed back against the restrictive 1872 Comstock legislation in our upcoming webinar and public program at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
“Mandating Morality:” The Comstock Act and Obscenity Cases in the National Archives will take place next Thursday, May 9 from 1:00–3:00 PM (EST).
In this program, hosted by National Archives Education Specialist Ang Reidell, Dr. Jennifer Janofsky and Villanova University Public History graduate students will offer a glance into some fascinating and little-known records in the National Archives, and the intriguing stories they hold. The Villanova graduate students worked with the National Archives education team throughout the country to conduct this groundbreaking research.
Please join us for this free, engaging and thought-provoking program about the changing meaning of obscenity and what can happen when laws mandating morality are passed.
- In person in Kirby Auditorium, on the 2nd floor of the National Constitution Center
- Sign in 5 minutes prior to start time, limited space is available.
- Enter as a guest by typing your name.
- There will be a viewing pane for the presentation and a live chat for questions and discussion.
- If you experience any technical difficulties the day of the program, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
The image from this post is: “Miss Flossy Lee,” U.S. v. Dunton, 1891; Case Files, compiled 1866-1909; Textual Records from the Department of Justice; Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Judicial District of Maine; Records of U.S. Attorneys, Record Group 118; National Archives at Boston, Waltham, MA.
by Annie on April 30, 2013
Boston Public Library, by Stanley Scott, 1939. From the Records of the Work Projects Administration.
Teaching units about the Great Depression include the Works Projects (also Progress) Administration (WPA). The records of this government program that put millions of unemployed Americans to work in public works projects are held in the National Archives.
They reveal fascinating stories about local history: the building of the school cafeteria, curb cuts, road improvements…and public art. In the classroom, the records of local WPA projects become recognizable connections between past and present, the efforts of the past continuing to benefit us today. Like a scavenger hunt, students can go about town finding evidence of the WPA still here after all these years!
Among the records held at the National Archives at Boston in Waltham, MA, are large linocuts created by an artist named Stanley Scott for the Federal Art Project of the WPA in the 1930s. Scott’s images depict historic buildings in Boston (with the exception of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, DC). Little is known about the artist; however his beautiful, dramatic prints of Boston’s landmarks include Old North Church, Faneuil Hall, and the Boston Public Library.
Eighty years after its creation, a print of the Boston Public Library remains vital and current. Other than the outdated automobiles or clothing, the Library looks just like this today.
Founded in 1848, by an act of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts, the Boston Public Library was the first large free municipal library in the United States.
In addition to its 8.9 million books, the library’s holdings include rare books and manuscripts, maps, musical scores and prints. Among these are several first edition folios by William Shakespeare, original music scores from Mozart, Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf;” and the personal library of John Adams. The Library is a landmark and anchor in Boston. Among the many events that take place in view of the library is the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
The prints of Old North Church (National Archives Identifier 6219851), Faneuil Hall (National Archives Identifier 594930), and the Boston Public Library (National Archives Identifier 6219817) come from the Records of the Work Projects Administration in the National Archives at Boston.
Today’s opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, makes 13 Presidential Libraries that are administered by the National Archives and Records Administration.
President George W. Bush confers with Vice President Dick Cheney from Air Force One, September 11, 2001. (From the holdings of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. P7091-18)
Part of the Library and Museum’s mission is to encourage students of all ages to learn more about the Presidency, the First Lady, American history, and government, as well as to serve as a resource for the study of the life and career of President George W. Bush.
The education staff has developed a full offering of resources for teachers, students, and visitors.
Lesson plans and classroom resources are available for teaching students to differentiate between primary and secondary sources, and to engage students as historical detectives in analysis of images and objects. Your students can learn about the role of the First Lady through interactive modules. And if you’re looking for an engaging and fun hands-on way to supplement existing curriculum, you can reserve a Traveling Trunk for your classroom.
Training programs and resource workshops for professional development are also available. Participants use primary source analysis methods to explore how to effectively incorporate documents created by the United States government into teaching world events.
On the website, kids are invited to have fun exploring the Kids’ Clubhouse for a sneak peek at artifacts, documents, and photographs; to play games and trivia; or to find a new book to love through a list of Mrs. Bush’s favorite books. There is also a Homework Zone for kids and a Parents’ Corner for learning more about the resources and programs that the Museum has available for children and families.
The Museum opens to the public on May 1 and field trips may be scheduled beginning May 6, 2013. Looking forward to Fall 2013, you’ll have the option to choose a theme for your students’ visit—such as citizenship, conservation, or the three branches of government. Programs will include pre-visit and post-visit activities.
We are now accepting applications for Primarily Teaching—our summer institute on using historical documents in the classroom. Information and the application is available on our website.
Workshops will be conducted at the following National Archives locations:
- Kansas City (Kansas City, MO) June 17–20, 2013
- Atlanta (Morrow, GA) July 15–19, 2013
- Boston (Waltham, MA) July 22–26, 2013
- Washington, DC, July 29–August 2, 2013
Participants at Primarily Teaching in Boston
Participants at Primarily Teaching in Chicago
Participants at Primarily Teaching in New York
Participants at Primarily Teaching in Boston
Participants will conduct research with original documents (including handwritten or printed documents, photos, maps, etc.) and select 3 to 5 discoveries to be added to DocsTeach.org—our online tool for teaching with documents. They will create DocsTeach learning activities using these newly digitized materials, to be published on a special nationwide DocsTeach page.
Primarily Teaching has helped teachers explore the holdings of the National Archives and create primary source-based classroom materials for decades. The theme for this year’s workshop is Rights and Responsibilities—matching that of National History Day in 2014. Participants will choose a more specific research topic to fit within this broader theme.
We invite K-16 educators, librarians, media specialists, and museum educators to participate!
I co-wrote today’s post with Stephen Wesson at the Library of Congress. It is also posted on the Teaching with the Library of Congress blog.
In 10 words or less, it’s what we’ve got and how we got it.
But we’ll go on. Because we get asked this question a lot. Both of us do. And because both the National Archives and the Library of Congress provide excellent resources for teaching history, civics and government, the humanities, and more!
Let’s start with what we have in common: Making historical documents available to the public. The Library of Congress and the National Archives exist to preserve pieces of history and culture. As part of its mission to serve the U.S. Congress and the American people, a top priority of the Library is to “acquire, organize, preserve, secure and sustain for the present and future use of Congress and the nation a comprehensive record of American history.” The mission of the National Archives is to safeguard and preserve “the records of our Government, ensuring that the people can discover, use, and learn from this documentary heritage.” So we both store and protect documents, photographs, posters, moving images, audio, and more. And what’s really great is that we both make these accessible to the public. So you, your students, or anyone else can study what we have to understand the past.
But let’s get back to that key difference. What we have in our collections and holdings differs because of how it arrived through our doors. The National Archives, established in 1934, is the nation’s record keeper. By law, “permanently valuable” records of the federal government must come to the National Archives for safekeeping. So any record—be it a handwritten document, map, film reel, or email—created in the course of doing federal business, that falls into a category predetermined to be kept and preserved, is transferred to the National Archives when the agency or department that created it doesn’t need to refer to it any longer. Keeping only 1-3% of records the government produces still amounts to over ten billion records!
Meanwhile, the Library of Congress, established in 1800, is the world’s largest collection of knowledge and creativity, with treasures in 460 different languages that range from the Bay Psalm Book and European explorers’ maps to Thomas Edison’s films and the rough drafts of Langston Hughes. The Library takes in more than 10,000 objects a day, and they arrive in its in-box via a number of means. As the nation’s copyright repository, the Library receives two copies of every item registered for U.S. copyright. It also operates offices around the world to bring in and distribute materials from other countries. And many of the Library’s landmark objects and collections—such as the first map with the word “America,” and the papers of Abraham Lincoln—have been donated by individuals or groups, or purchased using donated funds. The Library is part of the legislative branch of the U.S. government, and the Archives is an independent federal agency within the executive branch.
Despite (and because of!) our differences, the Library and the National Archives are both great places to locate free primary sources in a wide variety of media for your classroom. Primary sources have a unique power to engage students, build their critical thinking skills, and help them create new understanding. You can find federal records like the Declaration of Independence, Voting Record of the Constitutional Convention, the Homestead Act, a letter from a soldier to First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt asking her to be his son’s godmother, or the Pentagon Papers online from the National Archives.
This print of the Declaration of Independence comes from an 1823 engraving and is the most frequently reproduced version of the document. The original, exhibited at the National Archives, has faded badly—largely because of poor preservation techniques during the 19th century. Today, this priceless document is maintained under the most exacting archival conditions possible. (Print #3 of the Declaration of Independence, 1823. General Records of the Department of State. National Archives.)
At the Library of Congress website you can find Thomas Jefferson’s rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, powerful photos from the Dust Bowl, and oral histories from survivors of slavery.
The “original Rough draught” of the Declaration of Independence shows the evolution of the text from the initial composition draft by Jefferson to the final text adopted by Congress on the morning of July 4, 1776. (Thomas Jefferson. Draft of Declaration of Independence, 1776. Manuscript. Manuscript Division (49). Library of Congress)
Both institutions make it easy to find the primary sources you need. The search engine at loc.gov and the online catalog at archives.gov let you search millions of online primary sources and narrow your search to find just the object you and your students need.
The education staffs at the National Archives and the Library both create education materials and teacher resources to help teachers unlock the potential of primary sources. The Teachers page on the Library of Congress website provides lesson plans and primary source sets, all searchable by content and Common Core State Standards, as well as online professional development and tools to help your students start analyzing primary sources right away.
The Teachers Resources page on the National Archives website includes information about visits and professional development, as well as a link to DocsTeach.org, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives. On DocsTeach, you can locate primary sources, as well as find and create online learning activities using seven interactive tools in combination with documents, images, maps, charts, audio and video.
Do you already use primary sources and teaching resources from the Library of Congress or the National Archives? We hope the answer is both!