Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

National History Day 2023: “Frontiers”

As students prepare to participate in this year’s National History Day (NHD), the History, Art & Archives team has compiled topics and resources to inspire and assist aspiring researchers. Embracing this year’s theme, our office has gathered material on both geographical and ideological “frontiers” explored throughout the history of the U.S. House of Representatives. This year’s page also highlights several pioneering lawmakers who changed the course of congressional history. Students are encouraged to pull from a variety of resources across the website in crafting their NHD project.

Discovery of the Hudson River/tiles/non-collection/9/9-13-Hudson-Discovery-2004_1-1.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Acquired for display in the House Chamber after a lengthy campaign by the artist Albert Bierstadt, this historical landscape shows Henry Hudson landing his vessel, Half-Moon, in the Hudson River Valley.

Topics

Pioneers in the House
This topic features seven trailblazing Representatives, from the first African-American legislator elected to the House in 1870, to the first Latina lawmaker to join the chamber in 1989. Each entry includes a biographical profile and additional material about the career of each Member.

Davy Crockett Drinking Glass/tiles/non-collection/9/9-13-Crockett-Glass-2005_036_000-8.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
This glass depicted famous frontiersman David “Davy” Crockett heading to Washington, under the caption “Coonskin Congressman.” The theme song for the popular 1950s television show about Crockett's life characterized his six-year House service as “fixin' up the government an' laws as well.”

Expansion & Exploration
The word “frontier” inspires multiple interpretations, many of which are explored in this expansive offering of material spanning Lewis and Clark’s journey in 1804 to the moon landing in 1969. This section also explores the United States’ expansion into the Pacific region and includes a history of Hawaiian annexation and statehood.

Black Civil Rights after the Civil War
In the years after the Civil War and the destruction of slavery, Black activists and their allies in Congress made great strides in codifying new civil rights in the U.S. Constitution. This section offers insight on passage of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, civil rights legislation, and the racist backlash that followed these initial gains for Black Americans.

The Civil Rights Movement
In the second half of the twentieth century, Black Americans led a grassroots movement to effect sweeping changes to the nation’s civil rights laws. Students researching this era will find essays, highlights, and related artifacts exploring how the civil rights movement opened new opportunities for representation and landmark legislative achievements. A short documentary relates the story of the march for voting rights in Selma and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Women’s Suffrage
Jeannette Rankin of Montana first won election to Congress in 1916. Nationally, however, women did not win voting rights until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment four years later. The Women Must Be Empowered publication recounts the House’s role in the passage of the constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. The blogs, highlights, and historical records in this section explore the challenges lawmakers and activists faced during the women’s suffrage movement.

Chisholm, Spellman, and Burke/tiles/non-collection/9/9-13-Chisholm-Burke-HousePhotoOffice.xml Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office Shirley Anita Chisholm of New York, Gladys Noon Spellman of Maryland, and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke of California were early members of the Congresswoman's Caucus. Both Chisholm and Burke represented important firsts for women in Congress.

We have also highlighted three major legislative acts that sought to break barriers and transform civil and labor rights in America:

Students and teachers are encouraged to use the additional resources listed on our National History Day page as a launching point for further primary source research.

We hope this year's NHD inspires students to learn more about the U.S. House of Representatives. Please reach out to history@mail.house.gov for additional guidance for your project.