History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives

Edition for Educators—Gaveling In

Declaration of War Gavel
This month’s Edition for Educators focuses on an everyday tool with a rich tradition in the history of the House of Representatives: the gavel. Gavels have special significance in the House, where they have many purposes: as instruments of order and decorum, as symbols of power, and sometimes as souvenirs. Each, in its own right, could tell a unique tale. Following are a few examples.

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The Unlucky Seventh

Abraham Lincoln
If you studied Latin in school you may recall the phrase, “Omne trium perfectum” (every set of three is complete). From history to pop culture, trios make for interesting stories. Ancient Rome had Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Mark Antony. The antebellum Senate boasted its Great Triumvirate—Webster, Calhoun, and Clay. The Bee Gees laid down the beat for 1970s disco goers. Harry Potter and his friends, Ron and Hermione, spellbound a later generation. The Illinois Seventh Congressional District of the 1840s spawned its own memorable political trio: John J. Hardin, Edward D. Baker, and Abraham Lincoln.

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Categories: People, War, Presidents

Edition for Educators—Firsts for Women in Congress

Patsy Mink
In 1965, Patsy Mink became the first woman of color elected to Congress. An advocate for equal rights as well as many other women’s issues, one of her greatest accomplishments was the passage of the Women’s Education Equality Act, as part of a comprehensive education bill, in 1974. Learn more about Mink and other firsts for women in Congress.

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Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage “Like Going to Normandy with Dwight Eisenhower”

Annual Selma Pilgrimmage
Rarely do we visit a historic site with someone who helped to make history there. But this weekend, more than 60 Members of Congress will travel to Alabama with Selma veteran and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. The Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage will commemorate the 50th anniversaries of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches which spurred passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The pilgrimage is an important congressional tradition and one the Office of the Historian chronicles through its civil rights oral history project.

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Before Bloody Sunday

Congressional Delegation to Visit Alabama
A month before Selma became synonymous with the struggle for voting rights, a group of Congressmen traveled to the city and returned to Washington to sound the alarm. “We—as Members of Congress—must face the fact that existing legislation just is not working,” Joseph Resnick of New York said upon his return. “The situation in Selma must jar us from our complacency concerning voting rights.”

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Edition for Educators—African-American Congressmen in the 19th Century

Robert Smalls of South Carolina
Robert Smalls fought for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives despite violence from the opposition, and focused his congressional career on promoting African-American civil rights. Twenty-two African-Americans served in Congress from 1870 to 1901. Learn more about the life and accomplishments of Robert Smalls and other 19th-century African-American Members of Congress for Black History Month.

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