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.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Housing for Whom? Stuyvesant Town, Housing Segregation and Housing Shortage in 1943

The exclusion of African-Americans from Stuyvesant Town is a “form of fascism,” insisted Bebe Hyslop in her letter to Mayor La Guardia in 1943. La Guardia supported the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company that year in its plan to prohibit African-Americans from living in Stuyvesant Town, then being planned in lower Manhattan. The letters presented here, including Ms. Hyslop’s, are a sampling of some 1000+ letters written, expressing the outrage felt by New Yorkers of all backgrounds to the mayor’s decision.  Anger against the mayor in the city’s African-American community especially was fueled by a sense of betrayal as many had considered La Guardia an ally in addressing racial injustices.  La Guardia’s choice to support exclusion of African-Americans from Stuyvesant Town was a contributing factor precipitating the Harlem Riots a few weeks later.

Together these letters from our collection reveal how large historical events of the 1940s helped forge a foundation for the battle over housing segregation and progress of the civil rights movement that followed.  They also invite us to think about the components of our own housing crisis of affordability amidst the greater subtleties of inclusion and exclusion in today’s housing market.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Sputnik and the Role of Science, Math and Technology in American Education

Here's a link to our work on the history of science, 
technology, engineering and math in America
On October 4, 1957 the Soviet Union set a new trajectory for education in America.  Before the launch of Sputnik (the first satellite ever to achieve Earth orbit), American education had been a local matter, focused on community and citizenship.  After Sputnik, the security and future of democracy seemed to hinge instead on winning a global battle with communism for domination of the world. As Marion B. Folsom, Secretary of HEW put it in his speech to the AFL/CIO two months after the Sputnik launch, “Whether we like it or not…[o]ne of the fundamental facts of our times is that America is a leader among the forces of freedom against the forces of tyranny in a contest which extends around the world.  And education will play a crucial role in determining which system triumphs in the end.”

On this anniversary of the Sputnik launch, let’s take a look together at three documents from our collection to examine the historical shift in American education at the Sputnik moment, and perhaps also for how we might think about science, math and technology in American education today. 

(1) A November 11, 1957 press statement announcing therelease of “Education in the USSR,” a study completed by the Department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW) shortly after the Sputnik launch;

(2) “The Challenge in Education,” a speech by Marion B. Folsom, Secretary of HEW, to the AFL/CIO on December 5, 1957; and
(3) “Education and Industry,” a speech to the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce by John A. Perkins, Under-Secretary of HEW on October 10, 1957.

The Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) released “Education in the USSR” a month after the Sputnik launch.  They had been working on it for two years.