Social Studies

Social Studies (X) - Middle (X) - WNET (X) - U.S. History (X)

Looking for Lincoln | The Gettysburg Address

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An excerpt from the PBS series Looking for Lincoln, in which President Bill Clinton explains the context of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. examines its content.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers | A Walk Through Harlem

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This segment from A Walk Through Harlem presents the poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” written by Langston Hughes in 1922 when he was eighteen years old. Born in Joplin, Missouri, Hughes traveled to New York City in the 1920s to become a part of an exciting arts and culture movement called the Harlem Renaissance. He later became known as the "poet laureate of Harlem." Hughes was one of the first African American writers who wrote stories about the authentic experiences of his people reflecting their pain, suffering, humor, creativity, and joy. He often was inspired by music and incorporated it into his poetry. Hughes made substantial artistic contributions to the Harlem Renaissance and holds an important place in American literature.

Picturing America - The Brooklyn Bridge

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The Brooklyn Bridge was hailed as a marvel of American engineering ingenuity. When it was built in 1883, its two towers were the tallest structures in the Western Hemisphere. Photographer Walker Evans turned its bold form and sweeping lines into a classic American image, both an icon of modernity and a monument that belongs to history.

To Joseph Stella, this structure was the “shrine containing all the efforts of the new civilization of America.” His Futurist rendition of the Brooklyn Bridge was inspired by a night alone on its promenade, surrounded by New York’s noises and pulsating colors, feeling both hemmed in and spiritually uplifted by the city.

Picturing America - Paul Revere

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Grant Wood’s The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere offers a whimsical, child-like interpretation of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s well-known poem. The artist’s desire to preserve American folklore was part of his greater scheme to forge a national identity through art and history.

John Singleton Copley’s portrait, an idealized view of labor consistent with the democratic ideals of the New World, depicts Paul Revere as a working craftsman. At the time of this portrait, Revere was a successful silversmith—not an American hero. Still, Copley captured the heroic qualities of physical strength, moral certainty, and intelligence that allowed Revere to play a pivotal role in American history.

Nat Turner Rebellion | The African Americans

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This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross recaps the Nat Turner Rebellion, and how it affected Southern slaveholders.

Frederick Douglass | The African Americans

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This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross describes the life of Frederick Douglass and his rise to prominence in the abolitionist community.

Finding Their Voice

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In the 1920s, thousands of African Americans left the rural South for cities in the North in a movement called "The Great Migration."  Their arrival in New York City marked a period called "The Harlem Renaissance."  In this video segment from A Walk Through Harlem, we learn that only 30 years earlier many of these descendants of slaves had worked as poor sharecroppers. Although slavery had ended, many blacks were still uneducated. Their shift to the urban North was an attempt to escape the violence and oppression they experienced in the South. They created a new voice for themselves during the Harlem Renaissance, which was a social, artistic and cultural movement.

Jane Jacobs

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This video segment from New York Voices describes Jane Jacobs who worked in the 1950s and 60s to save the neighborhoods of New York City. The author of The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jacobs disagreed with the notion that the city's oldest neighborhoods should be demolished to make way for high-rise buildings, housing projects and six- lane highways. Her advocacy challenged and successfully derailed Robert Moses, America's most prolific developer, in his plan to cut lower Manhattan in half with a multi-lane highway. Jacobs challenged builders to think about what neighborhoods meant to the everyday lives of the people who lived there. Jacob's ideas changed the thoughts and future for millions of people.

The Evolution of Slavery in Colonial Virginia | The African Americans

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This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross traces evolution of slavery in Colonial Virginia through the life of Anthony Johnson, an African American who lived in Jamestown, Virginia. Johnson owned a 250 acre tobacco farm until the booming tobacco industry in Virginia transformed slavery into a system based on race.

The Second Middle Passage | The African Americans

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This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross shows the expansion of slavery in America from 1790 to 1860 and its impact on the lives of free black men.

Cotton Gin | The African Americans

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This video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross describes how the invention of the cotton gin revolutionized the worldwide textile industry, and with it the dynamics of the American slave community.

Walter White versus W.E.B. Du Bois

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In an effort to respond to the economic crisis of the Depression, President Roosevelt, to the dismay of the N.A.A.C.P., put civil rights on the back burner. This strategy was unacceptable to W.E.B. Du Bois, editor of The Crisis, the journal of the N.A.A.C.P. Du Bois asserted that since F.D.R.’s “New Deal” would not assist African Americans, they should instead find their own solutions to poverty and injustice. This video from The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow highlights one of Du Bois’ most controversial ideas -- support for segregated schools -- and N.A.A.C.P. executive secretary, Walter White’s angry response.

Wilmington, North Carolina,1898: Prelude to a Riot

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This video highlights Wilmington, North Carolina, in the years leading up to the election of 1898. At the time, Wilmington could boast of idyllic race relations between black and white citizens. Blacks, only thirty years after Emancipation, had become professionals, politicians and shop owners. While blacks prospered, some whites resented what they perceived as a new attitude among blacks of equality or even superiority to their white counterparts. However, the real issue was political power. Whites became fearful that blacks, who were in the majority, would control the city. As the statewide and local elections of 1898 approached, the Democratic Party, then the party of white supremacy, was determined to end black political power in Wilmington.

Is This a Map of the Underground Railroad?

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Gwendolyn Wright from The History Detectives has a mission: to determine if Anne Zorela's antique map is a diagram of the Underground Railroad routes.  One reason Anne believes the map is authentic is because of the Quaker meeting houses pictured. The Quakers helped fugitive slaves along the railroad routes. The documented region was also a known hotbed of Underground Railroad activity. These and other reasons have her convinced but she wants more proof to support her conclusion. Professor Gwendolyn Wright disagrees with Anne because fugitives as well as conductors and helpers on the Railroad would've been discovered and killed if a map fell into the wrong hands.

St. Augustine, Florida | The African Americans

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In this video from The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross, learn about runaway slaves who fled to St. Augustine, Florida and were granted freedom by the Spanish for political reasons.

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