Social Movements in America: A Research Guide
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.
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:
- The Microform Reading Room in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building holds historical newspapers and periodicals covering various civil rights movements. To find out how to research historical newspapers at NYPL, consult this blog entry: Researching and Finding Historical Newspapers.
- The Manuscript and Archives collections throughout the research libraries have original archival materials on various social movements. More information on accessing special collections >>
- For LGBT social movements, the Manuscript and Archives Division in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building has an extensive LGBT activism collection.
- The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is one of four major research collections that houses and collects papers and primary resources from the abolition and civil rights movements, among others. Contact the Manuscript, Archives and Rare Books Division for more information.
- The Dorot Jewish Division in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building stores important oral history collections pertaining to political activism in the Jewish community.
- The NYPL Digital Gallery exhibits a variety of photographs of social movements and demonstrations in New York City and beyond.
- In NYPL's Articles and Databases, consider LGBT Life with Full Text, Everyday Life and Women in America, c1800-1920, African American Experience or the Amnesty International Library for reports, articles, and documents on various movements.
- The NYPL's Zinn Collection (available in the Microform Reading Room) have many materials devoted to political and social activism.
- Occupy Wall Street Library: This site provides "free, open and unrestricted access to the collection of books, magazines, newspapers, 'zines, pamphlets, and other materials that have been donated, collected, gathered and discovered during the occupation."
- For NYPL's collection on the Occupy Movement and NYPL's blog post on our collection.
- The NYU Tamiment Library & Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives: "The Tamiment Library's printed collections consist of books, pamphlets, and serials focusing on the history of labor, politics, political thought, civil rights, women's history, the Spanish Civil War, literature, the history of New York City, and the arts."
Selected Secondary Resources:
- In NYPL's Articles and Databases, consider looking for scholarly articles under the following databases: JSTOR, Project Muse, Nation Archive, and Academic Search Premier.
- Methods of Social Movement Research edited by Bert Klandermans and Suzanne Staggenborg is useful in understanding a variety of methods used in researching social movements.
- The Price of Dissent: Testimonies to Political Repression in America by Bud Schultz and Ruth Schultz is another helpful resource in analyzing social movements of the the twentieth century.
- Breadwinners: Working Women and Economic Independence, 1865-1920 by Lara Vapnek examines the working class women struggling for workplace equality.
- A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920 by Michael E. McGerr focuses on the cultural, social and political elements of the progressive movement.
- For more secondary resources, contact the General Research and Reference Division at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the General Research Division and Milstein Division of U.S. History, Local History and Genealogy at the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.