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:
- 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?
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?