American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning


Who Built America? Textbook

Who Built America? Working People and the Nation’s History presents history from the perspective of working men and women, pairing a lively narrative with extensive visual and written documentary evidence. For the third edition (2008, Bedford/St. Martin’s), the authors restructured the chapters to make Who Built America? a more teachable textbook.

Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution: An Inquiry into the Civil War and Reconstruction

Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution book coverA textbook designed for high school classrooms, Freedom’s Unfinished Revolution: An Inquiry into the Civil War and Reconstruction, examines one of the most contested periods in America’s history where social conflict and change shaped the national landscape for generations to come.

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity: Exploring the French Revolution

This site introduces the extraordinary events of the French Revolution, from its origins in eighteenth-century French society through its legacies in the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte and after. Read essays by Jack Censer and Lynn Hunt that survey the Revolution’s major themes, or examine the rich archive of more than 600 primary sources, organized by category and searchable by keyword, type, and theme.

Beyond the Lines: Pictorial Reporting, Everyday Life, and the Crisis of Gilded Age America

Beyond the Lines: Pictorial Reporting, Everyday Life, and the Crisis of Gilded Age America
In this wonderfully illustrated book, ASHP/CML executive director Joshua Brown shows that the wood engravings in the illustrated newspapers of Gilded Age America were more than a quaint predecessor to our own sophisticated media. As he tells the history and traces the influence of Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, with relevant asides to Harper's Weekly, the New York Daily Graphic, and others, Brown recaptures the complexity and richness of pictorial reporting. He finds these images to be significant barometers for gauging how the general public perceived pivotal events and crises—the Civil War, Reconstruction, important labor battles, and more. This book is the best available source on the pictorial riches of Frank Leslie's newspaper and the only study to situate these images fully within the social context of Gilded Age America. Beyond the Lines illuminates the role of illustration in nineteenth-century America and gives us a new look at how the social milieu shaped the practice of illustrated journalism and was in turn shaped by it.

Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction

Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction
Written by Eric Foner with visual essays by Joshua Brown, Forever Free is a new examination of the vitally important years of Emancipation and Reconstruction during and immediately following the Civil War--a necessary reconsideration that emphasizes the era’s political and cultural meaning for today’s America. Foner overturns numerous assumptions growing out of the traditional understanding of the period, which is based almost exclusively on white sources and shaped by (often unconscious) racism. He presents the period as a time of determination, especially on the part of recently emancipated black Americans, to put into effect the principles of equal rights and citizenship for all. Joshua Brown’s illustrated commentary on the era’s graphic art and photographs complements the narrative. He offers a unique portrait of how Americans envisioned their world and time. Forever Free is an essential contribution to our understanding of the events that fundamentally reshaped American life after the Civil War--a persuasive reading of history that transforms our sense of the era from a time of failure and despair to a threshold of hope and achievement.

The Strange Career of Porgy and Bess: Race, Culture, and America's Most Famous Opera

Strange Career of Porgy and Bess book cover
Created by George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward and sung by generations of African-American performers, Porgy and Bess has been both embraced and reviled since its debut in 1935. In this comprehensive account, ASHP/CML staffer Ellen Noonan examines the opera's long history of invention and reinvention as a barometer of twentieth-century American expectations about race, culture, and the struggle for equality. Expertly weaving together the wide-ranging debates over the original novel, Porgy, and its adaptations on stage and film with a history of its intimate ties to Charleston, The Strange Career of Porgy and Bess uncovers the complexities behind one of our nation’s most long-lived cultural touchstones.