About

Paragraph Body

Introduction

Who Built America? An Open Educational Resource is a free online textbook,  primary document repository, and teaching resource created by the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. This project was funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (in a collaborative grant with the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, RRCHNM), The Ford Foundation, and the City University of New York Central Office of Library Services.

The textbook and supplemental resources survey the nation’s past from an important but often neglected perspective—the transformations wrought by the changing nature and forms of work, and the role that working people played in the making of modern America. Not merely a documentation of the country’s presidents, politics, and wars, Who Built America? focuses on the fundamental social and economic conflicts that have shaped U.S. history while also challenging  the notion that the vast majority of America’s citizens have always been united in a broad consensus about the nation’s basic values and shared in its extraordinary prosperity. 

The original Who Built America? textbook grew out of and helped contribute to the 1970s effort to reinterpret American history from “the bottom up”—drawing on studies of workers, women, consumers, farmers, African Americans, and immigrants—that has helped transform our understanding of the past. The American Social History Project (ASHP) was founded in 1981 at the City University of New York by Herbert Gutman (a pioneer of what was then the “new social history”) and Stephen Brier to bring this history to the broadest possible audience. In addition to the three print editions of this textbook (published between 1989 and 2008), ASHP produced a wide range of accessible educational materials in print, video, and digital media (including 10 historical films and the History Matters website, and the two WBA? CD-ROMs, the latter two co-produced with the RRCHNM). This Open Educational Resource edition of Who Built America? brings all of these materials together into a reimagined version of an online textbook. Along with making these resources widely and freely available digitally, we hope the OER will encourage readers to explore a range of historical sources and form their own interpretations of the past. We continue to tackle controversial issues and offer perspectives that are sometimes critical of celebrated figures or dominant beliefs. We believe that readers would rather encounter a clearly stated perspective, even if they disagree with it, instead of reading bland platitudes about the nation’s past.

The two-volume textbook has been updated to include a new chapter (Volume II, Chapter 16)  and a coda essay to bring its coverage to the 2020s. The earlier chapters remain largely unaltered with historical interpretations based on scholarship from the late twentieth century. However, since history does not remain static, we have added new essays that highlight more recent scholarly approaches and changing interpretations of many important topics. 

Beyond these additions, we have made significant changes to some of the language and terminology that appears in the textbook. Whenever possible, we have attempted to use names that recognize the importance of groups and communities to determine how they will be known. Through controlling language, dominant groups may perpetrate violence upon other cultures; but resisting names imposed by outsiders can be a potent way for groups to reassert their presence and power.

The most extensive changes relate to the language used to describe the histories of enslaved people and members of historically marginalized groups within what is now the United States. For example, we have updated the names used to describe Native peoples in several ways. When we can, we describe members of Native nations using their nations’ names in their own language, such as Haudenosaunee rather than Iroquois, and Niimíipuu rather than Nez Perce. This practice provides greater historical accuracy and adds specificity instead of making generalizations. Because the names dictated by settlers continue to be familiar to many readers, those names often appear in parentheses after the correct name. The names of individuals also changed: rather than Pocahontas, we use Matoaka, her family name, and Crazy Horse is referred to as Tashunka Witko, his Lakota name. We hope these revisions make the text more accurate and a better reflection of the Native peoples whose experiences we describe.  The changes extend beyond these examples of Native names and also include references to African Americans, Latinx, LGBTQ+ and other identity-based communities. This means that the textbook usage typically does not reflect the language that Americans would have used in the past: for instance, we have replaced historical references to “gay” communities with LGBTQ+, although that more inclusive term did not become widespread until recently.   

These changes were informed by advice from scholars representing African American, Latinx, and Indigenous communities; in the case of Native nations, we also consulted materials distributed by the nations themselves. This process was both complex and necessary. However, we consider this a work-in-process, realizing that with such a large volume of materials, we may have mistakenly skipped specific incidents. Furthermore, we know that language and terminology will continue to evolve especially as the history profession strives to better represent the country’s diversity. We welcome your questions and feedback about this process and other matters related to the preparation of this resource.

Paragraph Body

What is In this OER

This site includes the two volume textbook (broken into parts, chapters, and sections) accompanied by drawings, paintings, prints, cartoons, photographs, objects, and other visual media, including links to ASHP/CML’s ten documentary videos and teacher guides  that supplement the book’s themes and narrative and offer perspectives on the past that were often not articulated in the written record. Each chapter includes first-person “Voices” from the past—excerpts from letters, diaries, autobiographies, poems, songs, journalism, fiction, official testimony, oral histories, and other historical documents—along with a timeline and suggestions for further reading. 

This online edition features supplemental materials designed to help readers understand the practice of history. The more than forty A Closer Look essays, up to 1500 words in length, offer readers an in-depth investigation of a significant historical event, cultural phenomenon, or trend that is otherwise only touched upon in a chapter. Accompanied by a selection of historical evidence, including many images, they are intended to help readers become comfortable looking closely at historical documents and to understand how historians arrive at their understanding of  events or ideas. The essays also introduce new scholarly interpretations and make connections between past and current events and issues. The seven Historians Disagree essays provide readers with historiographic perspectives on how scholars’ approaches to key topics have changed over time, illuminating how history is an ever-evolving field of study.

The OER also includes more than 2000 primary source resources from the History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web site. The items in this fully searchable repository contain contextual headnotes and links to related documents. 

All of these resources can be organized into collections for teaching or presentation via the My WBA Collection tool. Please see the “How to Use” page for guidance on using the collection tool.

Paragraph Body

Authors, Editors and Acknowledgements

Who Built America? Open Educational Resource is a result of an extensive collaborative effort involving the knowledge, talents, and skills of the large number of people, listed below, who contributed to the OER and its previous iterations as a textbook with accompanying multimedia materials and teacher guides over almost four decades of work.

Who Built America? / OER Volume One Authors and Editors

  • Chris Clark, University of Connecticut
  • Nancy Hewitt, Rutgers University
  • Stephen Brier, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Joshua Brown, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • David Jaffee, Bard Graduate Center
  • Ellen Noonan, New York University

Who Built America? / OER Volume Two Authors and Editors

  • Roy Rosenzweig, George Mason University
  • Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Annelise Orleck, Dartmouth College
  • Stephen Brier, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Pennee Bender, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Joshua Brown, The Graduate Center, CUNY David Jaffee, Bard Graduate Center  
  • Ellen Noonan, New York University
  • Paul Ortiz, University of Florida
  • Anne Valk, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Elizabeth Shermer, Loyola University

Who Built America? / OER “A Closer Look” Authors

  • Pennee Bender, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Joshua Brown, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Vincent DiGirolamo, Baruch College, CUNY
  • Julian Ehsan, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Naomi Fisher, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Rohma Khan, University of California, Davis
  • Allison Lange, Wentworth Institute of Technology
  • Heather Lee, New York University Shanghai
  • Gretchen Long, Williams College
  • Peter Mabli, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Ellen Noonan, New York University
  • Manuel R. Rodríguez, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
  • Evan Rothman, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Martha Sandweiss, Princeton University
  • David Scheckel, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Susan Schulten, University of Denver
  • Sandra Slater, College of Charleston
  • Nate Sleeter, Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University
  • Carli Snyder, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Karen Sotiropoulos, Cleveland State University
  • Donna Thompson Ray, Graduate Center,CUNY
  • Anne Valk, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Who Built America? / OER “Historians Disagree” Authors

  • Lori J. Daggar, Ursinus College
  • Gregory P. Downs, University of California, Davis
  • Elise A. Mitchell, Swarthmore College
  • David Parsons, California State University, Channel Islands
  • Kim Phillips-Fein, Columbia University
  • Naoko Shibusawa, Brown University

Who Built America? / OER Content Advisors and Reviewers

  • Madison Bastress, New York University
  • Elizabeth Blackmar, Columbia University
  • David Brundage, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Elise Ciregna, Harvard University
  • David Correia, University of New Mexico
  • Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch.com
  • Matthew Fox-Amato, University of Idaho
  • Steven Hahn, New York University
  • Ben H. Johnson, Loyola University Chicago
  • David K. Johnson, University of South Florida
  • Prathibha Kanakamedela, Bronx Community College, CUNY
  • Blair L. M. Kelley, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Ari Kelman, University of California, Davis
  • Steven Lawson, Rutgers University
  • Heather Lee, New York University Shanghai
  • Neil Maher, New Jersey Institute of Technology
  • Jen Manion, Amherst College          
  • Premilla Nadasen, Barnard College
  • Jake Newsome, Independent Scholar
  • Mae Ngai, Columbia University
  • David Oshinsky, New York University
  • Millery Polyne, New York University
  • Seth Rockman, Brown University
  • Tom Scheinfeldt, University of Connecticut
  • David Serlin, University of California, San Diego
  • Sasha Maria Suarez, University of Wisconsin

Who Built America? / OER Teaching Advisors

  • Robert Bland, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
  • Amanda Brickell Bellows, The New School
  • Madeline DeDe-Panken, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Prathibha Kanakamedela, Bronx Community College, CUNY
  • Marcus Rediker, University of Pittsburgh
  • Elizabeth Shermer, Loyola University Chicago
  • Luke Waltzer, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Who Built America? / OER Research

  • Raquel Aubrey
  • Gabriella Fasold Berges
  • Amanda Bellows
  • Julian Ehsan
  • David Scheckel
  • Nate Sleeter
  • Carli Snyder
  • Emily Uruchima
  • Isa Vasquez

Who Built America? / OER Project Design and Coding

  • Marco Battistella
  • Joe Kirchhof
  • Peter Mabli
  • Agile Humanities

Who Built America? / OER Copyediting

  • Jane Cavolina

Who Built America? Print Editions (1989, 1992, 2000, 2008) Authors and Editors

Volume One:

  • Bruce Levine, University of Illinois
  • Stephen Brier, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • David Brundage, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Edward Countryman, Southern Methodist University
  • Dorothy Fennell, New York State School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University
  • Christopher Clark, University of Connecticut
  • Nancy Hewitt, Rutgers University
  • Marcus Rediker, University of Pittsburgh
  • Joshua Brown, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Eric Foner, Columbia University
  • Alfred Young, Northern Illinois University
  • Roy Rosenzweig, George Mason University 
  • David Jaffee, Bard Graduate Center
  • Ellen Noonan, New York University

Volume Two:

  • Joshua Freeman, Queens College, CUNY
  • Nelson Lichtenstein, University of California, Santa Barbara
  • Stephen Brier, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • David Bensman, Rutgers University 
  • Susan Porter Benson, University of Connecticut
  • David Brundage, University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Bret Eynon, LaGuardia Community College, CUNY
  • Bruce Levine, University of Illinois
  • Bryan Palmer, Trent University
  • Roy Rosenzweig, George Mason University 
  • Susan Strasser, University of Delaware
  • Joshua Brown, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • David Jaffee, Bard Graduate Center
  • Elizabeth Shermer, Loyola University
  • Pennee Bender, The Graduate Center, CUNY

History Matters: The U.S. Survey Course on the Web (1998-2024)

Producers and Directors: 

Pennee Bender, Joshua Brown, Roy Rosenzweig, Ellen Noonan, Kelly Schrum, Stephen Brier

Design and Original Art: 

Andrea Ades Vasquez, Joshua Brown

Document Introductions and Editing: 

Pennee Bender, Stephen Brier, Joshua Brown, Alan Gevinson, David Jaffee, Julie Miller, Mike O'Malley, Barbara Melosh, Ellen Noonan, Roy Rosenzweig, Kelly Schrum, John Summers, Christian Turek, Andrea Ades Vasquez

Programming:

Daniel Cohen, Simon Kornblith, Andre Pitanga, Elena Razlogova

Research and Technical Assistants: 

Rustin Crandall, Joseph Duis, Juliet Gorman, Katja Hering, Dan Maxwell, Julie Miller, Peter Strong, Donna Yee

Consultants:

Ann Fabian, Nancy Hewitt, Gary Kornblith, John McClymer, Neil Salisbury, Carl Schulkin, Tom Thurston

Thanks to: 

Sherna Gluck, Ron Grele, Wally Grotophorst, Michael O'Malley, Michael Picorossi, David Tarnow, Donna Thompson Ray, the Montana Historical Society, and the teachers who submitted syllabi, lesson plans, and student work

Funding:

The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Kellogg Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation; George Mason University,  City University of New York, New York Council for the Humanities

Who Built America? Accompanying Multimedia Materials and Teacher Guides

Documentary Producers and Directors:

  • Pennee Bender
  • Steve Brier
  • Joshua Brown
  • Andrea Ades Vasquez

Documentary Additional Art, Sound, Editing:

  • Charles Musser
  • Kate Pfordresher
  • Charles Potter

Documentary Music:

Jane Ira Bloom

ICONOCLAST: Julie Joslyn, Leo Ciesa

Teacher Guides:

Bret Eynon

Funding:

The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Ford Foundation, New York Council for the Humanities

 

Paragraph Body

Terms of Use

Who Built America? OER is an initiative of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning (ASHP/CML, based at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York), which supports teaching, research, and curriculum development in history and other humanities disciplines. The materials on this site are made publicly available for research, teaching, and personal study only. 

All textbook chapters, timelines, captions, and supplemental essays are subject to the Creative Commons license or Commercial Publishing restrictions described below. All other text, images, and media included in this WBA? OER may be protected by the U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17,U.S.C.). Usage of some items may also be subject to additional restrictions imposed by the copyright owner and/or the producing institution.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution: NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

This license requires that reusers of any material included here give credit to the creator. It allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, for noncommercial purposes only. If others modify or adapt the material, they must license the modified material under identical terms:

  • BY: Credit must be given to American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, CUNY.
  • NC: Only noncommercial use of this work is permitted. Noncommercial means not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.
  • SA: Adaptations must be shared under the same terms.
Paragraph Body

Permissions

Non-Commercial Use 
(Creative Commons Attribution—Non-Commercial)

Materials on this site may be used without securing permission from ASHP/CML for educational, non-commercial purposes, such as classroom distribution, student reports, etc. 

We invite you to use any content that is credited to the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning, free of charge, for any nonprofit or educational purpose. However, credit should be given as follows: American Social History Project/Center for Media Learning https://datastore.oer.asphcl.org

Commercial Publishing Use

Content created by ASHP/CML may not be downloaded, stored, copied, distributed, scraped for use by artificial intelligence systems, or otherwise used for commercial purposes without the prior written consent of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning. 

Many of the photographs, artworks, and texts on this website have been obtained from and permissions paid to other sources or publishers not affiliated with ASHP/CML. Those sources or publishers  may own a copyright or trademark for that work. ASHP/CML does not hold copyrights on any of the materials from other sources republished in Who Built America? OER.  We therefore cannot grant permission to use these materials. In cases where the items are copyrighted and ASHP/CML received permission to use them from the copyright holder, there will be a copyright or permissions statement including the name of the copyright holder. In those instances, to obtain permission to reprint the materials, please contact directly the copyright holder listed.

For permission to use text from the book, essays, or headnotes included in the WBA? OER please contact ASHP/CML - link/name


 

User login icon

Table of Contents

User login icon