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National History Day 2024: “Turning Points” | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives

The History, Art & Archives team has gathered resources based on this year’s National History Day (NHD) theme to inspire and assist student researchers with choosing their project. The material highlights turning points in American history with a focus on the U.S. House of Representatives.This year’s page organizes resources on the “History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House” website by historical eras—loosely corresponding with the National Archives’ DocsTeach—from the nation’s founding to the contemporary era. It also highlights lawmakers whose elections marked a turning point in representation. Students are encouraged to pull from a variety of primary and secondary resources from across the website.Turning Points in RepresentationAs the country grew and changed, the U.S. House of Representatives expanded beyond its original Membership and came to better represent the nation’s diverse citizenry. From the first Black-American legislator elected to the House in 1870 to the first Hispanic-American woman to join the chamber in 1989, lawmakers from every era brought their unique legislative interests and insights to Capitol Hill.Turning Points by EraNew Nation: 1774–1862 During this formative period, America achieved and defended its independence, established a new government, expanded geographically, and created economic opportunities. But the growth and development which defined this era came at an overwhelming human cost: by 1860, four million enslaved men, women, and children lived in southern states and western territories.Civil War & Reconstruction: 1860–1889 The Civil War era was a significant turning point in American history. Explore the secession of southern states, the legislative actions that shaped Reconstruction, the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, the admission of western states to the Union, or the military service of Harriet Tubman, Sarah Seelye, Clara Barton, or future Representative Robert Smalls of South Carolina.Emergence of Modern America: 1890–1930 At the end of the nineteenth century, the United States fought a war with Spain and acquired territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. Constitutional amendments related to women’s suffrage and prohibition marked key moments in the early twentieth century.Great Depression & World War II: 1929–1945 The onset of the Great Depression in 1929 caused financial ruin across America. In 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act gave rights to workers and outlawed child labor. Then, after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war against Japan. During World War II, the United States incarcerated Japanese Americans in internment camps.Postwar: 1945–1967After World War II, the United States engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union, a great power struggle animated by the competing political ideologies of liberal capitalism and communism. At home, everyday Americans advocated and won expanded civil rights. Hawaii achieved statehood in 1959. The 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy stunned the nation. In in 1964 and 1965, Congress passed landmark legislation to protect the rights of Black Americans.Contemporary: 1970–2001 In the early 1970s, President Richard Nixon’s involvement covering up a break-in at the Democratic National Committee precipitated the Watergate Scandal, leading to an impeachment inquiry and Nixon’s resignation. Following Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War, many Americans called for greater accountability and for reforms across the government. Meanwhile, policymakers looked for ways to lower spending and reduce taxes. As the Cold War receded with the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on U.S. soil shook the nation and forced it to confront new international threats.Students and teachers are encouraged to use the additional resources listed on our NHD page as a launching point for further primary source research.We hope this year’s NHD inspires students to learn more about the role the U.S. House of Representatives plays in American history. Got questions? Email us at history@mail.house.gov.