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“Occupying” the Bonus Army Protests of 1932

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View of Bonus Army Camp

The year 2011 saw protests in various countries such as Egypt, Syria, Libya as well as the millions participating in the various “Occupy” protests in the United States. Some students may think protests are a new phenomenon, but people have protested over and over again for their rights. Americans protested against England for denying them the right to representation. There were protests for and against slavery during the Civil War. Workers fought for safe working conditions, living wages and the right to representations by unions. Disenfranchised groups have fought for various rights of citizens, including their rights to vote and to own property.

Some students may know about the Bonus Army protests of 1932. Nearly 20,000 World War I veterans from across the country marched on the United States Capitol in June 1932 to request early payment of cash bonuses due to them in 1945. Their camp on the Mall was dispersed by troops commanded by General Douglas MacArthur and Major Dwight Eisenhower on July 28, resulting in injury and arrest for a number of the protesters.

Teachers can have students:

Veterans march to Washington
  • Study the broadside Veterans march to Washington to arrive at opening of Congress, December 5th, 1932 to learn the protesters’ response to being forcibly dispersed.
  • Compare the Bonus Army protests of 1932 with the “Occupy” protests that began in September 2011. What are similar and different in these protests?
  • Imagine that they are preparing to organize a protest. What strategies can they learn from previous protests?
  • Identify the reasons for each protest. What goals did the protesters have in each situation? How successful were the protests in resolving the concerns of the marchers?

Additional information:

This webcast features authors Paul Dickson and Thomas Allen talking about their book The Bonus Army: An American Epic.

This American Treasures exhibit entry for the Bonus Army has images and historical context.

Search the collection of photographs from Theodor Horydczak for more photographs of the bonus marchers and their encampment.

What can your students learn from studying protest movements?

Comments (5)


  2. I have been teaching history since 1994, each time I go to the site I have massive expectations. Yet I am always a bit disoriented and disappointed. In a Google search for “bonus army” photos this link came up second. I clicked on it, why is it so difficult to navigate your site? I find it very cumbersome to move about in, again all I wanted were a few images (a simple gallery) of the bonus army for a student project. Would you say your site is or is not set up to provide educators an easy route into such basic historic topics? Why is there no direct link to other images of the bonus army?

    • Thanks for your message Mr. Valeri.

      When searching Mr. Horydczak’s collection try searching bonus veterans not bonus army. You may also wish to look at the Today in History feature on the Bonus Army.

      I hope you have explored our Primary Source Sets and our interactive on searching the Library of Congress for Teachers. Also if you are having trouble navigating the site you can always use the Ask a Librarian button on the top of the home page and click on Resources for Teachers.

      I’m sorry your search experience has not been easy. I know our Web Services Team is working on ways to make searching easier and we are adding more materials on the Teachers Page every day. I also hope you will continue to use our blog as a way to find resources you can use in your classroom.

  3. Hey there! I am a PhD student at AU and am doing my dissertation on ‘hobo’ life during the great depression. I am doing a final project for a class I am in on the Bonus Army march and encampment in Anacostia DC- just wondering if you have any updates or sources since posting this, the items posted have been an excellent starting point! Thanks!

    • Hi,

      I’d contact the Prints and Photograph Division to see what other images they have available. I think the Theodor Horydczak will be of special interest to you. The search tips provided at the end of the Today in History feature on the bonus army may also provide some search tips and resources to review. Also the papers of Constance McLaughlin Green may also provide some assistance. I assume that you have already worked with the Washingtoniana Division at DC Public, staff at the Historical Society of Washington and at George Washington University (which has a large DC History collection). If not they would be beneficial resources as well. One note is that the Washingtoniana Division may not be as accessible because of the closure of the Central Library. Contact staff at the Peabody Room at the Georgetown Branch for assistance with Washingtoniana collections. Best wishes on your research.

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