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Social Movements in America: A Research Guide

Act Up. [Protest rally in front of Municipal Building.], Digital ID psnypl_mss_1105, New York Public LibraryProtest Rally in Front of Municipal Building, 1987

For the past four weeks, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Village Voice, Le Monde, El Pais, The Independent, El Diario-La Prensa, Frankfurter Allgemeine, Yomiuri Shimbun, World Journal East, Corriere Della Sera, Asahi Shimbun, The Nation, New York Magazine, and many other presses have been covering a small but growing political movement known as “Occupy Wall Street,” currently taking place in Lower Manhattan. All of these current local, national, and international newspapers and periodicals can be found and read in the DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Reading Room at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building; other newspapers and magazines are also available electronically and in the Library's Microform Reading Room.

According to the New York Times, “the demonstrators are seeking accountability for Wall Street and corporate America for the financial crisis and the growing economic inequality gap.” This movement has greatly expanded to other major cities in the United States and in other countries such as Japan and England.

Gay Contingent, Vietnam War protest march, New York, November 6, 1971, Digital ID 1582268, New York Public LibraryGay Contingent, Vietnam War Protest March, New York, 1971

As early as colonial times, there have always been waves of demonstrations and protestations in America, particularly in New York City. At NYPL, we have an extensive research collection on the history of social movements in New York City, the United States, or anywhere in the world — from Mexico to Iran. Whether you are conducting research on the Progressive Era or Women's suffrage, this blog post will cover resources in the history of social movements in America and can also offer tips in searching for other historical movements around the globe.

If there is a particular movement you are researching, the quickest way is to browse the Library's Catalog. You can search via NYPL's homepage as well, using the search box at the top of the page. Be sure to type in the keyword of the movement (Examples: Civil Rights Movement or Women's Suffrage). One the left hand side you will notice several lists of titles, topics, and subjects that can help narrow down your research. You can also narrow your search results by Availability, Format, Audience or Acquired Time on the left side. If you know the exact title of the book, switch keyword to title.

For an in-depth search, consider the Classic Catalog and search under subject (you can also change collection to a Library near you) and type in "social movements -- United States" or "social movements -- country of your research" or "labor movements -- country of your research."

A list of subject headings will appear — these subjects will guide you to the resources cataloged as such; some will go further into different centuries or periods. This should help you get started with finding resources of social movements in America.

Selected Primary Resources:

Selected Secondary Resources:

Suffrage parade. Women in white.,[Suffrage parade in New York City.], Digital ID PS_MSS_CD22_335, New York Public LibraryThe Suffrage Parade in New York City, 1913If you still have difficulty finding resources, feel free send us a question or make an appointment with a librarian.


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thank you for finally writing

thank you for finally writing on OWS! #occupy #occupytogether

research guide gap

Very timely, but why doesn't it reference the Schomburg Center's collections on Abolitionism, Civil Rights and social protest?


Thank you for your comment! I've made sure to include that as well.

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