Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

Edition for Educators — House History for Remote Learning

Rep. Nancy Lee Johnson of Connecticut/tiles/non-collection/5/5-21-oh_njohnson_camera.xml Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office In her oral history, Nancy Lee Johnson of Connecticut gives her perspective on the role of women in the Republican Party and the changing position of moderates in Congress during the 24 years she served in the House.
With schools closed amid the pandemic, the Offices of History, Art & Archives have put together lesson plans and resources to help everyone continue to learn about the history of the House of Representatives and what role it plays in America’s unique system of government. This Edition for Educators provides an introduction to the stories, interviews, and resources on our website, for parents, teachers, and students.

Oral History

Oral history is a powerful lens into the past, often providing never-before heard first-person accounts of important historic moments.

  • Use the Office of the Historian’s more than 800 oral history video and audio clips to learn about what it was like to work in the House during major events such as the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
  • Connect with a friend or relative who has a story to tell: our oral historians provide guidance and recommendations for students to prepare for and conduct their own oral history.
Carlottia Scott, Representative Ron Dellums' Chief of Staff/tiles/non-collection/5/5-21-oh_scott_phone.xml Image courtesy of Carlottia Scott, provided by the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives Carlottia Scott became Representative Ronald Dellums' chief of staff in 1984. The stories of staff on the Hill fill in many behind-the-scenes details crucial to understanding how Congress works.

Women and Minorities in Congress

The Office of the House Historian has written accessible reference books for many reading levels that detail the experiences of women, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans who have served in Congress. Along with biographies of each Member of Congress, the books include essays elaborating on their shared experiences and contextualizing their service amid larger trends in American history. These books are available on our website and in free e-book formats from the Government Publishing Office (GPO).

Black Americans in Congress, 1870 to Present

Example Questions and Activities:

  • What effect did slavery have on the lives of the early black Members of Congress? Provide two examples of the effects of slavery for Members who had been enslaved. Trace the lives of one Member who was born into slavery and one who was born free. How did their experiences help or hinder their political careers?
  • What is the Progressive movement? How did supporters of this movement use Progressivism to both support and combat segregation?
  • How did the Great Depression and the New Deal contribute to the changing party alliance of many African Americans during the mid-20th century?
  • What effect did the creation of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) in 1971 have on African Americans’ experience within the institution of Congress? How did the CBC change the nature of the national debate on issues important to Black Americans?

Women in Congress, 1917 to Present

Example Questions and Activities:

  • Many people assumed that women elected to Congress would hold similar beliefs and values—in other words, they would vote as a bloc. How did the early women in Congress disprove this theory?
  • How do you think World War II changed the role of women in politics?
  • How did the discord among Congresswomen concerning the creation of the women’s caucus in 1977 highlight the generational rift of this era?
  • Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder of Colorado summed up women’s attainment of power and influence on Capitol Hill in 1992 by noting that change is “not revolutionary, it’s evolutionary.” Do you agree with Schroeder’s assessment? Explain your answer.

Hispanic Americans in Congress, 1822 to Present

Example Questions and Activities:

  • Why were there so many more Hispanic Members from the New Mexico Territory from 1853 through 1898 than from any other territory or state?
  • How did Puerto Rico’s territorial status affect the legislative interests of Hispanic Members of Congress? Provide two examples of legislation that addressed the island’s territorial status.
  • What was the Chicano Movement? How did the movement originate? How did the movement affect the legislative interests of Hispanic Members and why?
  • What do you think was the single most important advancement for Hispanic Americans in Congress in the late 20th century? Explain your answer.

Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Congress

Example Questions and Activities:

Going Beyond the Essays

Rep. Elizabeth Furse of Oregon/tiles/non-collection/5/5-21-oh_furse_computer.xml Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office Pacifist and apartheid opponent Oregon Representative Elizabeth Furse first won election in 1992—the “Year of the Woman”—and arrived just in time for email to become a central method for congressional offices to communicate with their constituents.

Photographs and objects can be complex story tellers about past events and people. Words spoken by historic figures reveal the power of their experiences. Find lesson plans featuring pictures of Congresswomen in action (PDF), artifacts relating to their service (PDF), and their own words to better understand their experiences. We have similar activities for African-American Members of Congress: photographs (PDF), artifacts (PDF), and quotations (PDF).

#CivicsAtHome

Our History, Art & Archives staff is continually providing ways to use our website to learn about the history and heritage of the House using the #CivicsAtHome hashtag on Twitter. Be sure to follow @USHouseHistory for more.

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.

Categories: Edition for Educators