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AC / DC: What's the Difference?
This animated essay from the American Experience Web site explains the difference between alternating and direct electric current and offers in-depth explanations about the role played by a battery, light bulb, wire, and generator. Grades 6-12.
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Rights not set

"Am I Not a Woman and a Sister?"
African-American women held as slaves were particularly vulnerable to abuse at the hands of their white owners. This engraving appeared in abolitionist George Bourne's Slavery Illustrated in Its Effects upon Women, published in 1837. It highlighted the connections between the anti-slavery and women's rights movements, as some women abolitionists, such as Sarah and Angelina Grimke, used the anti-slavery cause to address their own plight as women. The connections they drew were highly controversia
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"Aluminum for Defense": Rationing at Home during World War II
The productive capacity of the United States during World War II surpassed all expectations. To boost that production and maintain supply levels for troops abroad, Americans at home were asked to conserve materials and to accept ration coupons or stamps that limited the purchase of certain products. Gasoline, rubber, sugar, butter, and some kinds of cloth were among the many items rationed. American responses to rationing varied from cheerful compliance to resigned grumbling to instances of blac
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"All To Me Was New and Strange": Mary Doolittle Leaves Her Family for a Shaker Community, 1830
During the second quarter of the 19th century numerous radical movements emerged, and some withdrew from society and formed ideal or utopian communities. The Shakers (or Shaking Quakers) were the oldest and largest of these utopian movements, founded in Great Britain by Mother Ann Lee, who arrived in North America in 1774. Shakers abandoned the traditional family in favor of a new fellowship of men and women who lived as brothers and sisters, worked in agriculture and artisanal crafts, and adopt
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"All These Mean Dykes Standing Around:"Shelley Ettinger Describes the Lesbian and Gay Community of t
The women's movement of the 1970's sent shock-waves through every corner of American life, transforming the way people thought about families, jobs, and every day interactions. By questioning traditional sex roles, feminism also encouraged the growth of the gay and lesbian rights movement. Previously, many gay men and lesbians had concealed their sexuality, but the 1970's witnessed the growth of assertive and visible gay and lesbian alternative cultures. As a college student at the University of
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Federal Court Concepts
This module, "Federal Court Concepts", is designed to introduce secondary and postsecondary students to the American federal court system. It contains basic information about the structure of the federal courts, what kind of cases that federal courts hear, and how to use federal court decisions in research.
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"All Over the Land Nothing Else Was Spoken Of ": Cabeza de Vaca Takes Up Residence as a Medicine Man
One of the earliest accounts of the European-Indian encounter in North America was of the ill-fated 1527 expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez. After disembarking on the Florida coast near Tampa, the Spanish forces on land and sea became disastrously separated. Having overstayed their welcome and with local Indians in pursuit, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, second in command, set out with his men on rafts back to Cuba. Eighty survivors came through a hurricane to land near Galveston, Texas. Four year
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Against Isolationism: James F. Byrnes Refutes Lindbergh
The interwar peace movement was arguably the largest mass movement of the 1920s and 1930s, a mobilization often overlooked in the wake of the broad popular consensus that ultimately supported the U.S. involvement in World War II. The destruction wrought in World War I (known in the 1920s and 1930s as the "Great War") and the cynical nationalist politics of the Versailles Treaty had left Americans disillusioned with the Wilsonian crusade to save the world for democracy. Senate investigations of w
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"After the Ball": Lyrics from the Biggest Hit of the 1890s
The 1890s witnessed the emergence of a commercial popular music industry in the United States. Sales of sheet music, enabling consumers to play and sing songs in their own parlors, skyrocketed during the "Gay Nineties," led by Tin Pan Alley, the narrow street in midtown Manhattan that housed the country's major music publishers and producers. Although Tin Pan Alley was established in the 1880s, it only achieved national prominence with the first "platinum" song hit in American music history--Cha
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"Achieving an Atmosphere of Mutual Trust and Confidence": Henry A. Wallace Offers an Alternative to
Allies during World War II, the U.S. and the Soviet Union disagreed over a number of issues after the war. These included control of Eastern Europe, division of Germany, atomic energy, international loans, and the Middle East. On February 9, 1946, Soviet premier Josef Stalin asserted that the continued existence of capitalism in the West would inevitably lead to war. Foreign Service senior diplomat George Kennan sent President Harry Truman, still forming a Soviet policy, a lengthy telegram advoc
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A Workingman's Prayer for the Masses
In his essay "Wealth," published in the North American Review in 1889, industrialist Andrew Carnegie argued that individual capitalists were bound by duty to play a broader cultural and social role and thus improve the world. (The essay later became famous under the title "The Gospel of Wealth.") But not everyone agreed with Carnegie's perspective. This 1894 "prayer" by "A Workman" (an anonymous contributor to the National Labor Tribune) was a sarcastic critique of Carnegie's paternalism and phi
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A Voice of Moderation: Roosevelt on the Armory Show
In 1913, an "International Exhibition of Modern Art," eventually seen by a half million people, rocked the American art world. First mounted at New York City's 69th Regiment Armory, it became known as the Armory Show, and its self-consciously "modern" approach challenged the dominance of conservative, staid styles of European art. Two-thirds of the 1,600 works were by Americans, and the Europeans whose works were exhibited--Picasso, Matisse, Seurat, Van Gogh, Gaughin, and Duchamp among them--wer
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"A Traitor to the Movement"?: A Former SDS and Women's Liberation Activist Testifies before Congress
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was founded in 1962 to change the world by fostering participatory democracy and personal authenticity. Heavily influenced by civil rights organizations, SDS initially operated in inner cities and college campuses to combat racism and discrimination. By the mid-1960s, many activists focused on antiwar activities as American troop involvement in Vietnam escalated. Frustrated with male domination in SDS, leftist women formed feminist splinter groups that eve
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A Thorn in the Side: A Socialist Takes Aim at Gompers
During the 1890s, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was faced with both the rising popularity of the People's Party in rural areas and attempts by the Populist movement to create a farmer-labor alliance. At the same time, socialist trade unionists lobbied for greater political involvement and adoption of several key socialist positions by the AFL. One of those socialist trade unionists was J. Mahlon Barnes, a Philadelphia cigar maker, member of the Cigarmakers' International Union, and memb
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"A Sweepstakes Attracts Attention": Corporate Executives Defend Sweepstakes Promotions
In the 1960s, lottery-like contests designed to publicize products through sweepstakes competitions spread rapidly. In the 19th century, every state banned lotteries--defined as competitions in which chances to win prizes were sold÷to protect citizens. In 1868, Congress prohibited the distribution of lottery materials through the mail. The mid-20th century sweepstakes, however, did not require contestants to purchase tickets or products to win prizes and were thus considered legal. In 1966, the
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A Show of Support: Farmers Feed Homestead Strikers
In 1892 the possibility of a Labor-Populist alliance circulated. Populist orators like Mary Lease sought to build ties between the Farmer's Alliance and the labor movement by mobilizing farmers to send wheat and corn to striking workers at Carnegie's Homestead steel mill outside Pittsburgh. Despite the support for such an alliance among many in the labor movement, American Federation of Labor leader Samuel Gompers opposed such political action. Gompers insured that the A.F.L maintained, in his w
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A Shoemaker and the Tea Party
George Robert Twelve Hewes, a Boston shoemaker, participated in many of the key events of the Revolutionary crisis. Over half a century later, Hewes described his experiences to James Hawkes. When Parliament passed the Tea Act in 1773, colonists refused to allow cargoes of tea to be unloaded. In the evening of December 16, with Hewes leading one group, the colonists dressed in "the costume of a Indian." They boarded the ships in Boston harbor and dropped the tea overboard. Hewes' account shed li
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"A Shocking Instance of Brutal Employer Aggression": Antiunion Violence in a "Union-Free" Town
In the late 1940s, large labor unions and major corporations worked out an accord that guided labor-management relations for the next quarter century. During this period, unions benefited from high wages and relative stability, while relegating company decision-making to management. Many workers in certain geographic areas and sectors of employment, however, were not affected by the accord. In "union-free" Gainesville, Georgia, union representatives had started to organize a predominately female
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A Quaker Abolitionist Travels Through Maryland and Virginia: The Journal of John Woolman, 1757
In both Britain and the United States, Quakers were among the first to denounce slavery in the 18th century. This was due to the efforts of Quaker abolitionist leaders such as John Woolman. Born in New Jersey in 1720, Woolman was a tailor and shopkeeper. Continual encounters with slavery in his own neighborhood--notably an incident in which his employer asked him to write out a bill of sale for a slave--convinced him that he could not, in good conscience, continue to have anything more to do wit
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"A Religious Flame That Spread All Over Kentucky": Peter Cartwright Brings Evangelical Christianity
In the decades following the Revolution, a vast variety of choices appeared on the American religious landscape as an anti-authoritarian climate encouraged the formation of new democratic religious sects. The Baptists and Methodists were most adept in preaching to the new populist audience during these years of camp meeting revivalism. Peter Cartwright greatly contributed to the Methodists' success at introducing evangelical Protestantism to the new settlements of the West. Born in Virginia in 1
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