A Select Annotated Bibliography of Videos for Teaching AP U.S. History

Vietnam: A Television History

An excellent eleven part documentary which includes interviews with North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers and civilians.   Given the length of each of the programs, teachers will probably have time to show only carefully selected excerpts.   The program entitled TET, 1968 is particularly valuable for classroom use, whether excerpted or shown in its entirety.

Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years 1954-1965

This classic six-part series effectively utilizes both archival footage and first-person testimony to document the connection between local developments and the national Civil Rights Movement.   If an instructor cannot find the time to show an entire episode, carefully selected excerpts can be used effectively.   Part Four, "No Easy Walk 1961-63," lends itself particularly well to classroom use, especially the sections on the Birmingham demonstrations of May 1963 and their role in forcing President John F. Kennedy to propose new civil rights legislation.

Geography in U.S. History

A series of ten 20-minute lessons on a variety of issues from "North vs. South in the Founding of the U.S.: 1787-1796" to "The Origin and Development of NATO: 1945-1990."   Short enough to be viewed and discussed in a single class period, a number of these videos raise thought-provoking questions about important developments not widely discussed in other audio-visual resources.   "Clash of Cultures on the Great Plains: 1865-1900," presented from the point of view of Lakota Chief Red Cloud, and "Moving North to Chicago: 1900-1945," a lively analysis of "The Great Migration," are particularly valuable for classroom use.

Up South: African American Migration in the Era of the Great War

A thirty-minute simulated documentary produced by the American Social History Project which dramatizes the early years of the Great Migration.   The video combines drawings, historical photographs and film clips with actors reading excerpts from primary sources.   Less fast-paced than "Moving North to Chicago," this production lends itself more easily to an in-depth treatment of the years 1915-1919 in conjunction with print or Web-based primary sources.

Heaven Will Protect The Working Girl

Another thirty-minute simulated documentary produced by the American Social History Project.   This one dramatizes "The Uprising of the 20,000," the strike of garment workers in New York City in 1909 which established the International Ladies Garment Workers Union as a significant force in labor relations.   Like Up South, this video combines drawings, historical photographs and film clips with actors reading excerpts from primary sources.   A good complement to a unit on the "new" immigration and/or women during the Progressive Era, it also calls attention to the role of the Women's Trade Union League.

Half Slave, Half Free

Also available under the title The Odyssey of Solomon Northup, this popular film dramatizes the classic slave narrative, Twelve Years a Slave, perhaps the best surviving account of slavery on a large plantation in the Deep South during the antebellum period.   It provides insight into life of free African Americans in the North as well.   Nearly two hours in length, it can serve as an important resource for a substantial unit on slavery and race relations during the period 1830-1860.

The Immigrant Experience: The Long, Long Journey

A fictionalized account of the life of a family of Polish immigrants who arrive in the United States during the first decade of the twentieth century and eventually become "real Americans."   While not minimizing the difficulties or the discrimination encountered by the "new" immigrants, this is an optimistic tale of gradual upward mobility over four generations.   An excellent complement to first person accounts such as those found in David Katzman and William Tuttle, editors, Plain Folk.

Nine To Five

A good example of a popular film which should definitely NOT be shown in its entirety.   However, it is an equally good example of a film, the first part of which makes an attention-getting introduction to a major issue in United States History.   In this case, the first eight minutes of the film depict sex discrimination in the work place in unmistakable, if somewhat humorous and sometimes crude, terms.

Hollywood On Trial

A ninety-minute documentary which tells the story of the "Hollywood Ten" from the point of view of management's efforts to curb the power of organized labor in the film industry.   Despite the obvious bias of the narrative, the story is told in all its complexity with other points of view also represented.   An excellent resource for a unit on the Red Scare of the 1950s which clearly demonstrates that the effort to root out communist subversives began several years before Senator Joseph McCarthy took center stage.   It can help provide the historical context for the study of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, a 1950s play about the Salem Witch Trials, though the length of the video may make it better suited for viewing after the AP exam rather than before.

Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam

Widely shown in the classroom by AP teachers across the country, this emotionally-charged eighty minute documentary uses excerpts from letters written by U.S. servicemen, friends and family members to dramatize the human cost of what the film makers depict as a senseless war.   Using the music of the time and newsreel footage and inserting a running count of U.S. troop strength and casualties, this video captures the mood of the times but provides little or no analysis of U.S. foreign policy.   Recommended for use after the AP exam rather than as preparation for the test.