August in History with the Library of Congress

This post was written by Uhuru Flemming of the Library of Congress.

Many teachers like to include mini-lessons or bell-ringers about “this day in history.” The Library of Congress offers two resources that recount what happened on a particular day using the Library’s collections of digitized primary sources: Jump Back in Time (introductory) and Today in History (advanced). Choose the one that best matches your students’ reading levels to build both content knowledge and research skills with primary sources in context.

Houdini and Jennie, the elephant, performing at the Hippodrome, New York, 1918

Houdini and Jennie, the elephant, performing at the Hippodrome, New York, 1918

August highlights include the origins of the eight-hour workday (introductory; advanced) and George Washington recognizing the equal status of Jewish Americans (introductory; advanced), as well as milestones related to:

Alcatraz Prison

  • August 11, 1934: Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary opened for business and took in its first group of “most dangerous” prisoners (introductory; advanced);

World War II

  • August 13, 1942: Joseph Stalin drafted a memo to Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt opposing their decision not to invade Western Europe (introductory; advanced);

The Arts

  • August 16, 1939: The Hippodrome theater in New York City closed its doors for the last time (introductory; advanced);

    Police arresting party picketers outside White House. Harris and Ewing, August 1918.

    Police arresting party picketers outside White House. Harris and Ewing, August 1918.

Women’s History

  • August 28, 1917: Ten suffragist were arrested while picketing at the White House (introductory; advanced).

To engage your students immediately,┬ádistribute or display one primary source from an entry and invite them to jot down a single detail they notice and then share. To draw your students deeper into analyzing the primary sources, ask them to record observations, reflections and questions on the Library’s primary source analysis tool. Anne Savage offers tips in the Blog Round-Up: Using the Primary Source Analysis Tool.

Students can also:

  • Compare a secondary source account, such as a textbook explanation, to a primary source account. What can be learned from each? What cannot be learned from each? What questions do students have?
  • Consider how a series of primary sources support or challenge information and understanding on a particular topic. Ask students to refine or revise conclusions based on their study of each subsequent primary source.
  • Use the list of additional resources at the end of each Today in History entry to search for additional primary sources.

Some of our favorite ideas for using these resources came in the comments reacting to Primary Sources Every Day from the Library of Congress. Let us know how you use them!

Five Questions with Constance Carter, Head of the Science Reference Section at the Library of Congress

While I’m officially the Head of the Science Reference Section, I spend most of my time working with the collections, answering reference requests and creating webcasts, book displays, and bibliographies. I work with text-books, journals, diaries, cookbooks, reminiscences, biographies, magazines, pictures, electronic sources, manuscript materials, microforms, artifacts–everything you might expect to find in a Library. I especially like the 18th and 19th century materials and learning more about the daily lives of our forefathers–their foraging techniques, what they ate, how they cooked and cleaned, what they wore, and how they spent their time.

Staff Favorites: Flight is Possible

On May 13, 1900, using stationery of the Wright Cycle Company, Wilbur Wright handwrote a letter to fellow aviation pioneer Octave Chanute of Chicago, Illinois. I love this 5 page letter!

It contains some of the very best human emotions–there is passion, optimism, tenacity, curiosity, and recognition that together we can solve big problems.

Five Questions with Cheryl Adams, Reference Specialist for Religion in the Library of Congress Humanities and Social Sciences Division

Because our division covers the humanities and social sciences I would definitely get questions relating to religion, but I might be at the desk when someone was researching the history of catsup, ideas about beauty in the 1860s or wanting a list of consulting firms who helped incumbents win senate races , 1980-2012 (real questions!). I love the variety of both questions and researchers. And researchers in the Main Reading Room need only be 16 or older (and curious) in order to use our collections, which makes for a wide world of topics and interests.