Established in 1982 at LaGuardia Community College/ CUNY with a mission to collect, preserve, and make available primary materials documenting the social and political history of New York City. We hold nearly 5,000 cubic feet of archival records and 3,200 reels of microfilm with almost 100,000 photographs and 2,000,000 documents available on our website.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Mayor Ed Koch on Gun Control

Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs
I have watched with great sadness and anger the recent epidemic of gun violence in the United States, most notably in Arizona, Colorado, Wisconsin, and today at the Empire State Building. While the motives for these despicable acts of violence have varied, one common denominator has been the prevalence of semi-automatic weapons.
Sadly, this is not a new issue. Twenty-three years ago, Mayor Ed Koch gave a speech calling for federal and city semi-automatic assault weapons bans after five children were murdered in a California schoolyard by a killer with an AK-47. He told his audience that “It’s true that ‘Guns don’t kill people, people do.’ But it’s also true that killers and armed criminals can create large numbers of victims by using a semi-automatic assault rifle.” (Click here to read the speech.) The Archives’ City Council Collection also has a resolution in 1991 calling on the State Legislature “to prohibit the unlicensed possession of semiautomatic assault weapons,” showing that this remained an important issue. (Click here)
The Archives has a wealth of material about issues of gun control and gun violence, including the Bernhard Goetz shootings of 1984. If you would like to learn more about these issues or use documents in your classroom, please feel free to contact me.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Social Security Act Became Law August 14, 1935

Steven A. Levine
Coordinator for Educational Programs

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Postmaster-General James A. Farley,
and Senator Robert F. Wagner, circa 1936.

Seventy seven years ago today, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.  New York’s Senator Robert F. Wagner was the law’s lead sponsor in the Senate and he had been a fierce advocate of this legislation to protect the elderly, unemployed and children.*  In May of 1935, he gave a speech on WEVD, a mostly Yiddish language radio station, to rally support.  In the midst of the Great Depression and mass unemployment, he set forth a vision of the United States based on economic security for all, particularly the most vulnerable.
The time has come when our government, backed by overwhelming sentiment of the American people, is prepared to raise men from a level below that of machines and place them on a higher level.  It is our objective to lighten the burdens of unemployment, of uncared for childhood, and of neglected old age, thus making life more enjoyable and secure for the vast majority of Americans.  (Senator Wagner’s complete speech can be read here.)
As the presidential candidates today debate the future of the programs begun by the Social Security Act in 1935 and our nation and the world confront a new economic crisis, Senator Wagner’s words and vision are well worth remembering.

*While the law increased security for many Americans, it also excluded many women, African-Americans and other minorities by not initially covering agricultural workers, domestics, teachers, nurses, and social workers.  Southern Democrats in Congress used their political power to prevent the inclusion of most African-Americans.