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“The House of Representatives, in some respects, I think, is the most peculiar assemblage in the world,” Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois once observed. Behind the legislation and procedure, House Members and staff have produced their own institutional history and heritage. Our blog, Whereas: Stories from the People’s House, tells their stories.

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Displaying 1–12 of 101 results

Edition for Educators—Resident Commissioners from the Philippine Islands

As the only American territory with representation in Congress to ever achieve its independence, the Philippines’ transition from colonial status to freedom is intertwined with the history of the archipelago’s Resident Commissioners to Congress. This Edition for Educators highlights Filipino Resident Commissioners, who represented the territory as Members of Congress during the first half of the twentieth century.
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The Fight for Fair Housing in the House—Part I:
A “Long, Tortuous and Difficult Road”

Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson, in his 1966 State of the Union Address, called for additional legislation to “prohibit racial discrimination in the sale or rental of housing.” Over the next two years, Johnson’s new housing measure—known as the Fair Housing Act—traveled what he called a “long, tortuous and difficult road,” exposing the limits of his Great Society agenda and forcing Congress to consider more expansive civil rights protections.
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The “Very Deserving Case” of Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman
A legendary figure in American history, Harriet Tubman’s story is well-known and widely celebrated. But her struggle, ultimately unsuccessful, to be compensated by the federal government for her service during the Civil War is less well-known. In 1865, after three years of dedicated service to the United States Army as a nurse, spy, and soldier, she started a long quest to secure the compensation she never received from the government.
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Edition for Educators—Through the Glass Ceiling

For Women’s History Month, this Edition for Educators highlights some of the women who have broken glass ceilings in the House of Representatives.
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The Superhero Style of Robert Smalls

Drawings of Robert Smalls from Golden Legacy
A dramatic backstory helped to launch Robert Smalls’s congressional career in the 1870s. A century later, the daring ship captain and Civil War hero’s story reappeared in the public eye as the subject of a volume of Golden Legacy, a comic book format Black history series for children.
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Edition for Educators—Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina

For Black History Month, this Edition for Educators celebrates the life and career of Representative Joseph Hayne Rainey.
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Starring Hazel Scott as Herself

Hazel Scott and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. on the Cover of Jet
Civil rights, Congress, and the performances of jazz pianist Hazel Scott coincided in the late 1940s and early 1950s. “I’ve been brash all my life, and it’s gotten me into a lot of trouble,” Scott said. “But at the same time, speaking out has sustained me and given meaning to my life.”
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Joseph Rainey and Reconstruction’s Promise

On December 12, 1870, newspapers across the nation heralded the swearing in of Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina as the first African-American Member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Rainey not only represented his South Carolina district. He also represented, he said, “the outraged and oppressed negro population of this country, those I may strictly call my constituency.”
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“The Bulwark of Freedom”: African-American Members of Congress and the Constitution During Reconstruction

On December 9, 1873, the National Civil Rights Convention drew several hundred African-American activists to Washington, DC. Attendees recognized that gains had been made in the Black struggle for equality during Reconstruction, but called on Congress to pass sweeping civil rights legislation, noting that recent “declarations recognizing our entitlement to all of our rights, with essential ones withheld, render the grievances even more intolerable.”
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“By Any Fair Means”: Joseph H. Rainey’s Contested Elections

Joseph Rainey Certificate of Election
When Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina served in the House of Representatives from 1870 to 1879 as its first Black Representative, the political inroads made during Reconstruction by Blacks in the South started to disintegrate rapidly. The contested election was weaponized as a method of excluding African Americans from representation in Congress.
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How Gallery Tickets Were Born

Gallery Visitors
On February 21, 1868, a one-sentence resolution in the House of Representatives brought thousands running to the Capitol: “That Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, be impeached of high crimes and misdemeanors.” Alongside the national consequences of impeachment, massive public interest caused a smaller development: the introduction of gallery passes.
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“Catalyst for Change”: The 1972 Presidential Campaign of Representative Shirley Chisholm

Since its first publication in 1951, Jet magazine had been on the forefront covering news and issues important to its African-American readership. Widely popular for its commentary on politics, culture, and the lives of everyday people, Jet posed a question in June 1971 that would soon prove prophetic: “Should a Black Politician Run for President?”
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