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HERB: Social History for Every Classroom

Photo, . . . African-American Union Recruit, War Department, National Archives
The Grant

HERB consists of three TAH projects, History for All, History Matters, and Our American Democracy, as well as a wide variety of non-TAH collections, primarily related to social history. If you're wondering where the name came from, HERB's namesake is Herbert Gutman, a labor historian and co-founder of the American Social History Project/Center for Media and Learning at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, which has been involved with K-12 education since 1989.


The strengths of these TAH grant projects include a focus on social history, selecting often underserved populations—English Language Learners and special education students—as a primary audience for the grant materials, and the collection of easily accessible digital resources for U.S. history teachers throughout the country.


The HERB website's teaching resources are divided by the three TAH projects. History for All and History Matters focuses on special education with adaptations such as scaffolding and vocabulary lists. History Matters content is also designed for ELL classrooms, and discusses the roles of both ordinary people and social movements. Our American Democracy is the least fleshed out of the three resource sections, although this may change in the future.

History for All is divided into the American Revolution, Slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the Great Migration, Colonial New York, Irish Immigration, and Early Industrialization. Each section contains between three and approximately 30 resources, clearly cited and ready for your classroom. Items available include prints, posters, advertisements, and other artworks; oral history transcripts; statistics; a documentary-viewing guide; timelines; activities; worksheets; an explanation by a historian; a letter; a song; and more. One particularly interesting offering is an archaeological sketch of a gravesite in Manhattan's famed African American Burial Ground, accompanied by a worksheet intended to help students make sense of the image and its meaning.

History Matters is similarly divided into topical sections containing individual resources. Topics available are an introduction to social history, the Constitution over time, the Philippine-American War, expansion, emancipation, civil rights, and "how change happens." Resources available are similar in type to those for the previously described grant. One example is a map showing which states had no, partial, and full voting rights for women prior to the 19th Amendment. You can also find, for example, information on African American miners in the California Gold Rush.

Our American Democracy shares the same structure, but covers only two topics—the Progressive Era and the World War II homefront.

The downside is that there are no apparent grade level suggestions, so you will have to determine the suitability of each piece entirely on your own. It is also tempting to select one of the options such as "Historical Eras" or "Teaching Activities." However, these will group together all activities, TAH and otherwise, as well as mixing together items created for ELL, special education classrooms, and others. That said, the website curators have brought together a wide variety of atypical sources for unique perspectives on history, so navigation difficulties should not deter users from the site.


New York Historical Society, Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, Museum of the City of New York, CUNY, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Paley Center for Media, New York Public Libary, Lower East Side Tenement Museum, American Social History Project, Education Development Center, Persistent Issues in History Network