American Social History Project • Center for Media and Learning

September 2009

ASHP/CML Website Makeover

The American Social History Project’s website has undergone an extreme makeover! Our new, improved and vastly more informative site, which went live this month, offers easier navigability, greater clarity, and lots and lots of resources. We’ve added new features such as podcasts of talks by noted historians and teachers at our seminars and clips from our award winning documentaries. You can still keep up with our latest activities-and insights-in the ASHP blog, or find more information about our books and other projects. We hope you will take the time to visit us and we invite any feedback or comments you might have on the new site.

Picturing United States History Forums

This fall the American Social History Project’s latest Web resource, Picturing United States History: An Interactive Resource for Teaching with Visual Evidence, will host two online forums on teaching with visual evidence. The October 2009 forum on the West will be guest-moderated by Professor Catherine Lavender of the College of Staten Island at the City University of New York; the November 2009 forum on the Civil War will be guest-moderated by Professor Alice Fahs of the University of California-Irvine.

Representing a unique collaboration between historians and art historians, Picturing U.S. History is based on the belief that visual materials are vital to understanding the American past. Visitors to the website will find Web-based guides, essays, case studies, classroom activities, and online forums to assist high school teachers and college instructors to incorporate visual evidence into their classroom practice. The website supplements other U.S. history resources with visual materials, analysis, and activities that allow students to engage with the process of interpretation in a more robust fashion than through text alone.

The West and Civil War forums are the latest in our series of online conversations about the visualization of the past. To sign-up for the Picturing U.S. History forums, go to: Forums.

Picturing U.S. History is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of its We, The People initiative.

History Hits the Road with Mobile Technology

This fall ASHP/CML begins partnering with the Apprend Foundation, a non-profit educational organization based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, on a new digital initiative called “Crafting Freedom on NC 86: Discovering Hidden History with Mobile Technology.” With funding from a NEH Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant, the team will plan and develop the first steps of a “re-version” of a highway tour, originally produced during the 1930s by the Federal Writer’s Project, focusing on the rich history of African Americans along North Carolina Highway 86. A major goal of the project is to evaluate how open source mobile technology can help to engage a wide audience of teachers, students, scholars, ordinary citizens, museums, and cultural partners in humanities content.

New Teaching American History Program for Social Studies Special Education

In July, we learned that ASHP/CML received funding to carry out a new Teaching American History professional development program (our eighth since 2003). The U.S. Department of Education awarded this grant to Districts 19, 20, 21, 23, and 31 of the New York City Department of Education. The program will serve social studies teachers who teach U.S. history to special education students, engaging them in the development of curriculum materials and pedagogical approaches that are both intellectually rigorous and meet the needs of diverse learners.

Featured Document: Bracero Workers


Leonard Nadel Collection, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, Bracero Workers
Bracero workers being fumigated with DDT in Houston, Texas, 1956. Leonard Nadel Collection, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

In recognition of Labor Day and our professional development program focus on immigration, we’ve selected a document from our collection of material on the Bracero Program. Between 1942 and 1964, millions of Mexican agricultural workers entered the U.S. to work as farm laborers through the government-sponsored Bracero Program. This photograph of Department of Agriculture personnel spraying braceros with the now-banned pesticide DDT as they arrive at the U.S. processing centers reveals the workers’ experience of being treated like livestock.


As bracero worker Rigoberto Garcia Perez recalled, “Thousands of men came every day. Once we got there, they’d send us in groups of two hundred, as naked as we came into the world, into a big room, about sixty feet square. Then men would come in in masks, with tanks on their backs, and they’d fumigate us from top to bottom. Supposedly we were flea-ridden, germ-ridden. No matter, they just did it.”

The Bracero Program was the largest and most significant U.S. labor guest worker program of the twentieth century with more than 4.5 million workers coming to the U.S. It exemplified the dilemma of immigrant workers-wanted as low-cost laborers, but unwelcome as citizens and facing discrimination. Supporters of the program viewed it as an opportunity for Mexican nationals to make a living and improve the conditions of their families. But the migrant labor movement, including Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers, opposed the program because of its exploitation of workers. Mexican agribusinesses and agricultural unions also opposed the program on the grounds that it not only drained the Mexican economy of agricultural workers but allowed the U.S. to develop a surplus of crops, such as cotton, that then hurt the price of Mexican cotton on the market. One profound effect of the program was its influence on Mexican American settlement patterns in the U.S. and the shared experience of many Latino families whose ancestors were involved in the Bracero Program.

Don’t forget to visit Now and Then: An ASHP blog for updates on ASHP/CML events and other staff musings.