History in the Classroom



Robert P. Moses - The Mississippi Freedom Movement and The Algebra Project

 Part One: The Mississippi Freedom Movement

Part Two: The Algebra Project

Robert P. Moses is one of the leading civil rights icons from the 1960s. He was the former field secretary for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the main organizer of the Freedom Summer project, which was intended to end racial disfranchisement.

Radical Equations

In 1982, he received a MacArthur Genius Fellowship and used the money to create the Algebra Project, which serves ten thousand students in twenty-eight cities nationwide , and follows the philosophy of grassroots community organizing in order to promote math literacy. In 2001, with Charles Cobb, Moses published Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project. He is also the co-author of Quality Education As A Constitutional Right: Creating a Grass Roots Movement to Transform Public Schools, which was published in 2010.

In this two part interview Robert Moses discusses the Mississippi freedom movement of the 1960s with NYU historian Robert Cohen and the Algebra Project's theory and practice with NYU Math Education faculty member Judith Green. The interview was done on May 5, 2011 at NYU.

Quality Education as a Constitutional Right



In the interview, Moses offers insight into innovative ways for teachers to understand and teach about freedom, equality, and race in American history, and equally innovative ways to approach the teaching of mathematics. He shows how the African American struggle for political rights and inclusion in the 1960s is connected to the work that the Algebra Project is doing today in the struggle for educational rights and math literacy.




Jesse Lemisch - Historians, Power, and Politics

Jesse Lemisch

Photo: Jesse Lemisch speaks at a University of Chicago anti-draft sit-in, 1966.

A panel “Historians, Power, and Politics” was held at New York University on May 4, 2011, exploring the history and contemporary resonance of Jesse Lemisch’s classic critique of the historical profession: “Present Mindedness Revisited: Anti-Radicalism as a Goal of American Historical Writing Since World War II.” The panel was chaired by Blanche Wiesen Cook. Panelists included historians Staughton Lynd, Rusty Eisenberg, John McMillian, Jesse Lemisch, and Robert Cohen.

Lemisch, a leading radical historian – who, along with E.P. Thompson, pioneered the new social history and the writing of history from the bottom up -- presented “Present Mindedness Revisited at the 1969 convention of the American Historical Association. He was part of a group of radical historians seeking to get the American Historical Association to come out against the Vietnam war in 1969, a move that mainstream historians resisted and ultimately defeated, on the grounds that historians as professionals were , and ought to remain, politically neutral and so their professional organizations ought not take a stance on the war.

“Present-Mindedness Revisited” was a searching critique that refuted these claims of political neutrality by exposing the Cold War and anti-radical politics embedded in much of mainstream American historical writing. This is why Noam Chomsky termed Lemisch’s “Present Mindedness Revisited” a “penetrating critique of anti-radical bias in the historical profession,” and finds it “regrettably – as pertinent today as it was when Jesse issued this call for integrity and intellectual independence years ago. It poses starkly the challenges that should be faced with the courage and commitment that he has shown in his remarkable work.”

In order to see a specific speaker, allow the video to load, then forward ahead to the following time:

  • 00:00   Introduction
  • 23:00   Jesse Lemisch
  • 57:00   Staughton Lynd
  • 1:16:50  Rusty Eisenberg
  • 1:39:00   John McMillian
  • 1:53:00   Q & A


Prof. Kim Phillips-Fein - Invisible Hands: The Businessmen's Crusade Against The New Deal

Kim Phillips-Fein is an assistant professor at New York University's Gallatin School, where she teaches twentieth-century American history. She has written for The Nation, The Baffler, and many other publications. She is a leading historian of American conservatism.

Invisible Hands


In her April 2011 talk to high school teachers, Professor Phillips-Fein discusses the rise of conservative resistance to the New Deal in the 1930s and the persistence of this illiberal tradition through the Reagan era and into our own century.




Prof. Blanche Wiesen Cook - Eleanor Roosevelt

Blanche Wiesen Cook is Distinguished Professor at John Jay College. Her scholarship focuses on women's history, US international relations, war, peace, and imperialism. She is among the most accomplished biographers in the US, and has written such influential biographies as The Declassified Eisenhower: A Divided Legacy of Peace and Political Warfare, Crystal Eastman on Women and Revolution, and Eleanor Roosevelt, whose first two volumes were national bestsellers.


Eleanor Roosevelt



She is currently completing the final volume of this definitive biography. In this recent lecture, Professor Wiesen Cook discussed with high school teachers Eleanor Roosevelt's passion for social reform, as well as her impact on the US in both the New Deal era and beyond.






Prof. Mark Naison - Harlem During the Depression

Mark Naison is Professor of African and African American Studies at Fordham and the founder and principal investigator of the Bronx African American History Project. He is the author of four books, and over one hundred articles on African American History, labor history, sports and popular culture, the most recent of which is The Rat that Got Away: A Bronx Memoir which he wrote with Allen Jones.


Communists in Harlem


Dr. Naison is currently working on a book of oral history interviews from the Bronx African American History Project under the title Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930s through the 1960s. His best known book, published in 1983 by University of Illinois Press, is Communists in Harlem During the Depression.





Prof. Patricia Sullivan - Lift Every Voice: The NAACP and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement

During the fall 2010 semester, Professor Patricia Sullivan, of the University of South Carolina history department, discussed her centennial history of the NAACP, Lift Every Voice, with teachers in a History in the Classroom grant project session. Sullivan's talk, like her book, offers a very illuminating overview of the civil rights struggle and African American history in the 20th century.

Sullivan challenges teachers to move beyond the traditional chronological boundaries that have shaped textbook versions of the civil rights movement. So instead of beginning this story of the challenge to Jim Crow in the mid-20th century with Brown v. Board of Education and the civil rights activism of the 1950s and 1960s she pushes the story back decades earlier to 1909 when the NAACP was founded. 

Lift Every Voice


She narrates the history of the NAACP struggle to stop racist violence and to secure for African Americans their rights as citizens, showing that this organization, though based in New York, had grassroots support from African American communities across the nation -- even in the heart of the Jim Crow South -- and was the leading edge of a long term movement to promote racial equality. Sullivan spotlighs the distinctiveness of the NAACP as one of the few genuinely interracial organizations in early 20th century America, and shows the long odds the NAACP confronted and ultimately overcame in challenging Congress, the Courts, and the President to live up to the words and spirit of the 14th and 15th Amendments.


The important story Sullivan tells in this lecture and her book can be used by teachers to shape lessons on the anti-lynching struggles, the race riots, the legal battles for equal political rights and such key figures in NAACP history as W.E.B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, and Walter White. Sullivan's book and her lecture can serve to introduce teachers to a wealth of primary sources that have great potential for classroom use, most notably Crisis magazine, offering the NAACP's revealing reports on the state of race relations and civil rights, founded and edited initially by Du Bois.



Tom Hayden: The Port Huron Statement 48 Years Later

The Port Huron Statement (1962)  was one of the founding documents of the New Left and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) , embodying the egalitarian idealism of 1960s student activists. 


This progressive manifesto challenged the Cold War and campus apathy, condemned American racism, and called for a new student movement centered on the idea of participatory democracy. The manifesto helped to inspire the generation of student activists who would organize against war, racism, poverty and political repression in the 1960s.


Port Huron Statement

Tom Hayden, the lead author of the Port Huron Statement, had edited the student newspaper at the University of Michigan, served as an early leader of SDS, risked his life as a freedom rider in the South, and worked with the black led Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in its struggle for civil rights in Mississippi.  Hayden later served 18 years in the California state legislature.


He wrote a new introduction to the Port Huron Statement in 2005 (published with the Port Huron Statement by Public Affairs press). Last October he spoke to NYU students, faculty, and New York City teachers and community members at the Tamiment Library in a talk that focused on the Port Huron Statement and the struggle for participatory democracy during and since the 1960s.


 Prof. Hasia Diner: Teaching American immigration history

During this session we heard from Professor Hasia Diner; a NYU history professor and author of many books on immigration. This session focused on using Riis's work, especially his photos, to discuss how primary sources can be used to illuminate immigrant history.

The major topics below can be accessed at the indicated times: 

  • 00:00   What are the key themes and questions every teacher teaching American immigration history should be dealing with?
  • 04:38   The push / pull forces of immigration
  • 09:10   Gaps between scholarly and popular conceptions of immigration
  • 13:10   Is there a connection between economic downturns and anti-immigrant sentiment?
  • 20:50   Trends in both American hostility and sensitivity to cultural difference
  • 24:11   Using Jacob Riis' photographs in the classroom and comparing them to other primary sources.  Transcript of this section (PDF).
  • 43:20   Dr. Diner discusses her book, Hungering for America: Italian, Irish, and Jewish Foodways in the Age of Migration
  • 54:25   Gender and immigration 


Dr. Candace Falk: The Emma Goldman papers

This session focused on late 19th and early 20th century America's most famous immigrant dissenter, Emma Goldman, and what her free speech battle and ultimate deportation tell us about the history of immigrant rights and the Constitution in industrial America.

In addition, Professor Falk has co-designed a curriculum guide outlining ideas on how to teach this content in a manner that is engaging to young adults. These lesson plans can be accessed here.

Major themes

  • 00:00   Introduction and Emma Goldman's immigration experience
  • 10:38   How did she support herself?
  • 17:40   Initial immigration to America
  • 22:40   "If I can't dance...": NYC saloon culture
  • 27:50   Conditions of the working class
  • 31:30   Free Speech Movement 
  • 35:57   Emma as speaker
  • 40:20   Letters between Emma and Ben Reitman 
  • 51:55   Birth control 
  • 56:40   World War I and the Palmer Raids 


Dr. Carola Suárez-Orozco: Engaging immigrant youth

 Part One

Part Two

During this session, Professor Carola Suárez-Orozco of New York University explored the psychological impacts that immigrant children face and how immigration may impact their learning.

Dr. Suárez-Orozco's slideshow presentation is available here: Engaging Immigrant Youth.

Major themes

Part One

  • 00:00   Teacher introductions and the demographic makeup of their schools
  • 21:08   "Old" and "new" immigration
  • 28:15   Diverse problems faced by immigrant children
  • 36:30   Introduction to the study
  • 41:30   Conceptional categories: behavioral, cognitive, and relational engagement
  • 54:20   Results of the study
  • 1:00:00   Academic English as a variable

Part Two

  • 00:00   Achievement tests
  • 06:40   Students' views of English-language learning
  • 07:55   Trajectories of performance
  • 10:40   Analyzing the results through statistical techniques and individual life stories
  • 24:40   Conclusion


Kate Caldwell: Arizona SB 1070 in legal context

Human rights lawyer Kate Caldwell discussed the historical context of the recent Arizona immigration bill.

The teacher packet she prepared is available here.

  • 00:00   Introduction
  • 05:20   Responding to "Why don't they just go home?"
  • 06:50   Overview of the bill
  • 10:40   Determining immigration status
  • 16:25   Race as a factor for "reasonable suspicion"
  • 18:40   Suing the police
  • 22:10   The bill as activism
  • 27:00   Takahashi v. Fish and Game Commission
  • 33:00   Hazelton law
  • 36:40   "First they came for..."
  • 40:50   Discussion


Dr. Ira Berlin: The Making of African America: The Four Great Migrations

  • 00:00   Introduction
  • 07:30   Approach to pedagogy
  • 10:00   Histories of slavery
  • 11:50   First and second great migrations
  • 15:00   Reconstructions of Black life
  • 21:00   Black experience as an immigrant experience
  • 23:15   Collapse of the cotton economy
  • 26:30   Third great migration
  • 28:30   Becoming African-American
  • 34:10   Regarding the 350 year history as a whole
  • 38:20   Recent African immigration
  • 53:00   Discussion


Dr. Marcelo Suárez-Orozco: Rethinking Global Migration

Professor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco of New York University engaged participants in a rich discussion that highlighted the immigrant experience both locally and internationally. Professor Marcelo Suarez-Orozco is the founder and former director of the Harvard Immigration Project.

The slideshow presentation used by Dr.  Suárez-Orozco is available here.

  • 00:00   Introduction
  • 01:30   The human experience is migration
  • 06:50   Migration in a global context
  • 13:30   The narrative of immigration in the 21st century
  • 15:15   The growth of global migration
  • 21:00   Why do people migrate?
  • 32:25   Comparative transnational migration
  • 34:30   The new new immigration
  • 40:00   The cultural psychology of immigration
  • 46:00   Discussion