Democracy

Among the ways that the American History Museum has engaged visitors was the 2010 interactive play “Join the Student Sit-Ins,” starring actor Xavier Carnegie (above) at one of the iconic objects in the Smithsonian's collection, the Greensboro Lunch Counter, where on February 1,1960, four Black college students at North Carolina A & T University began a legendary sit-in for racial justice.

Innovation for Good

Why History Museums Are Convening a 'Civic Season'

History is complex, says the Smithsonian’s Chris Wilson; here's how to empower citizens with the lessons it offers

One of the Smithsonian Institution's most visited artifacts is the 209-year-old Star-Spangled Banner, the inspiration for the National Anthem.

A New Summer Tradition, a Three-Week 'Civic Season,' Asks Americans to Reflect on the Past and Future

Museums are inviting Americans to embrace the national story from its sins to its successes as a stepping stone towards a better future

Artist Simon Berger created the portrait by strategically hammering cracks into a pane of glass.

Kamala Harris Portrait Draws Inspiration From the Glass Ceiling She Shattered

Artist Simon Berger created the unconventional likeness of the vice president in just one day

After three hours of searching, the back of my vehicle was filled with an array of potential museum artifacts, big and small, long and short.

Smithsonian Voices

A Museum Curator Reports on Rapid-Response Collecting January 6 on Capitol Hill

National Museum of American History curator Frank Blazich discusses rapid-response collecting in the wake of the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol.

A march in support of the Vote 18 movement in Seattle in 1969 and buttons advocating for youth enfranchisement in the Smithsonian's collections.

100 Years of Women at the Ballot Box

How Young Activists Got 18-Year-Olds the Right to Vote in Record Time

In 1971, more than 10 million 18– to 20-year-olds got the right to vote thanks to an amendment with bipartisan support

Five to ten percent of people will read an email, but 80 to 90 percent of people will read a text.

How the 2020 Presidential Race Became the 'Texting Election'

Campaigns took full advantage of text-to-donate technology and peer-to-peer texting to engage voters this election cycle

Labor leader Min Matheson was an inspiration to the garment workers she organized in Pennsylvania’s Wyoming Valley. Here, ILGWU members picket in Scranton in 1958.

The True Story of Min Matheson, the Labor Leader Who Fought the Mob at the Polls

The activist rallied garment workers and combated organized crime interests in northeast Pennsylvania in the mid-20th century

Su Nueva Laundromat in West Lawn, Chicago, is the official polling place for about 700 registered voters.

Eight of America's Most Unusual Polling Places

To capture democracy in America, photographer Ryan Donnell tracks down polls in surprising locations across the country

Civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer's searing speech about the brutality she'd endured because, as a voting rights activist, she wanted black Americans "to become first-class citizens," made primetime before the 1964 DNC officially kicked off.

100 Years of Women at the Ballot Box

Fannie Lou Hamer's Dauntless Fight for Black Americans' Right to Vote

The activist did not learn about her right to vote until she was 44, but once she did, she vigorously fought for black voting rights

As women entered through the “Ladies” side of a turnstile, Lenna Winslow’s “Voting Machine” concealed ballot items on which they could not vote.

The Voting Machine That Displayed Different Ballots Based on Your Sex

In an era of partial suffrage, these inventions helped women cast their votes

"We didn’t just want to view Weimar from its ending,” exhibition curator Simone Erpel says

What the Weimar Republic Can Teach Us About Modern Democracy

A Berlin exhibition draws on some 250 artifacts to explore questions of democracy past and present

The humor magazine Puck—a pre-TV version of “The Daily Show”—published this illustration in 1915, five years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

Women Who Shaped History

The Long Battle for Women's Suffrage

With the centennial anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment approaching, a look back at the surprising history of giving women the vote

The advantages of gear-and-lever voting machine, c. 1898, over the ballot box were many, including that it kept a running count, thus speeding up the reporting of results.

When Pulling a Lever Tallied the Vote

An innovative 1890s gear-and-lever voting machine mechanized the counting of the ballots so they could be tallied in minutes, not hours or days

An American flag sits atop a gravestone in the cemetery of Oak Mountain Baptist Church in Shelby County, Alabama.

Secrets of American History

The Wild Road Trip That Launched the Populist Conservative Movement

How a fiery preacher and a maverick Army general took the nation by storm

The rediscovered 1857 “Laws of Base Ball,” dubbed the sport’s Magna Carta, (above, with a 1911 image of the Brooklyn Baseball Club) makes its first appearance in a major exhibition at the Library of Congress.

This Crackerjack Lineup of Baseball Memorabilia Drives Home the Game’s American Essence

A new Library of Congress exhibition includes such treasures as the original 1857 “Magna Carta of Baseball”

Robert F. Kennedy accepts the Democratic nomination as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 1964.

Why Robert Kennedy Transformed From a Conservative Into a Liberal Champion of Civil Rights

A professor of political history looks at how RFK, assassinated 50 years ago this week, was an improbable hero to the left

Theodore Roosevelt and his Big Stick in the Caribbean (1904)

Why Teddy Roosevelt Is Popular On Both Sides of the Political Aisle

A historian considers the forces that have shaped the Rough Rider's presidential legacy in the decades since his death nearly 100 years ago

Scene from the 1967 Detroit riot.

Trending Today

Study Shows Little Change Since Kerner Commission Reported on Racism 50 Years Ago

An update to the landmark study finds there is now more poverty and segregation in America

A voting sign from the 2008 election.

For a Few Decades in the 18th Century, Women and African-Americans Could Vote in New Jersey

Then some politicians got angry

This cartoon was published on November 7, 1874, in 'Harper's Weekly.'

The Third-Term Controversy That Gave the Republican Party Its Symbol

The elephant and the donkey as symbols for America's biggest political parties date back to the 1800s and this controversy

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