Meet Our New Document Analysis Worksheets!

Photo Analysis WorksheetDocument analysis is the first step in working with primary sources. Our worksheets can help teach your students to think through primary source documents for contextual understanding and to extract information to make informed judgments.

We have worksheets for several media types, available on our website:

  • photos,
  • written documents,
  • artifacts,
  • posters,
  • maps,
  • cartoons,
  • videos, and
  • sound recordings.

Have you used any of our document analysis worksheets before? We originally created these student tools many years ago — and thousands of educators have made use of them.

Now we’re happy to report that we’ve made some updates. Not only do the sheets have a new look, but they reinforce a standard progression while guiding students through the analysis process:

  • Meet the document.
  • Observe its parts.
  • Try to make sense of it.
  • Use it as historical evidence.


Worksheets for Novice or Younger Students, or Those Learning English

Written Document Analysis WorksheetWe’re also happy to announce that we’ve created some brand new worksheets to join the existing group!

This set covers all the same document types — but the worksheets are geared to the early grades or those very new to the process. They guide students with simple language, answer choices, and colorful illustrations.

Progressing Beyond the Worksheets

We hope the worksheets will teach your students to analyze primary sources independently so that — ultimately —they won’t even need them anymore!

The first few times you ask students to work with primary sources, and whenever you have not worked with primary sources recently, model careful document analysis using the worksheets. Point out that the steps are the same each time.

Once students have become familiar with using the worksheets, direct them to analyze documents as a class or in groups without the worksheets, vocalizing the four steps as they go.

Eventually, students will internalize the procedure and be able to go through these four steps on their own every time they encounter a primary source document. Remind students to practice this same careful analysis with every primary source they see.

Don’t stop with document analysis though! Analysis is just the foundation. Move on to activities in which students use the primary sources as historical evidence, like those on, our online tool for teaching with primary sources.

Please let us know if you have feedback on these new, or newly updated, worksheets! Leave a comment below or send us an email. We’d love to hear from you.

These worksheets and other materials created by the National Archives and Records Administration are in the public domain — you can copy, modify, and distribute them.

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Upcoming PD Webinar: Bringing Native American Voices into Your Classroom

Man standing in front of tepees

“Chief Young Man Afraid of His Horses and his tepee taken at Pine Ridge Agency [Sioux],” 1/17/1891; from the Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs; available on DocsTeach.

Join us for a free professional development webinar on Thursday, April 6th at 7 p.m. or 10 p.m. EDT to learn about bringing Native American viewpoints and primary sources into your lessons.

We will share several simple ways to bring Native American stories, viewpoints, and primary sources into your students’ lives.

Learn about what is already created that you can just drop into your regular lessons — and what is coming in the near future.

The workshop will focus on lessons, primary sources, and examples from the Pine Ridge and Standing Rock Sioux. Everyone is welcome, however, no matter where you are!

We offer a one-hour National Archives Professional Development certificate for attending. Some school districts and libraries accept these certificates for required PD credit. Be sure to check with your district in advance.

To register, email us at

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New “Remembering WWI” App Release!

Women's Machine Gun Squad

Women’s Machine Gun Squad Police Reserves, New York City (Photograph 165-WW-143B-23, from the Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, available at

We’ve launched Remembering WWI, an iPad and Android app for exploring, collaborating, and engaging with our extensive collection of WWI photographs and moving images. The app commemorates the 100-year anniversary, in April 2017, of the U.S. entry into World War.

It is now available in the iTunes and Google Play stores.

The National Archives, together with our partners at Historypin, is leading this national collaborative effort with participation from the Library of Congress and National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, the WWI Centennial Commission, the American Association for State and Local History, and the National WWI Museum and Memorial.

The app invites people nationwide to contribute their own stories and play a part in the centennial commemoration of the First World War. Building on an amazing moving image and photographic archive being digitized and preserved as part of a larger Wartime Films Project, the app features thousands of rarely seen public domain images and films to encourage discovery and creative reuse.

Intended in part for classroom instruction, Remembering WWI provides educators with the digital sources and narrative-building tools to help students foster an understanding of World War I.

Collections within the app.

Explore thematic collections in the app.

Using the archival content within the app, you can create your own collections and build and share new narratives around the people, events, and themes you’re exploring. Thematic collections from the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian are featured to serve as inspiration or starting points for content discovery and reuse.

Film clips within the app

You can pull film clips into collections within the app.

Items in the WWI app

Add any item to a collection within the app, or create a new collection using that item.

Collection edit page in the WWI app

Get started on the collection edit page by adding a Collection title and chapter, then add app items or additional chapters using the button at the bottom of the page.

Educators are one of our primary audiences for this app, and we are grateful for those who participated in our user-design sessions and helped influence how this WWI app will be used in classrooms across the country.

To connect with other educators using the app, or discuss methods for using the app in the classroom, visit our History Hub. You can also ask general questions, report bugs, and find additional resources.

DocsTeach WWI pageAnd visit our special WWI page on DocsTeach to find, and even download, many of the photos and videos included in the app, plus many more. Browse primary sources by topic or access online teaching activities related to WWI.

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Primarily Teaching Summer Workshop for Educators

Teachers study recordsThis summer, join us for one of our Primarily Teaching workshops for educators on using historical documents in the classroom.

We’ll conduct research with original documents in the holdings of the National Archives and Presidential Libraries. Discover some of those incredible teachable documents that help educators and students unlock the past.

You will explore a specific topic that fits within the theme Conflict and Compromise, researching primary sources like letters, reports, petitions, case files, photographs, and more. (Conflict and Compromise in History is the National History Day (NHD) 2018 theme. Participation in NHD is not required.)

  • Migratory Farm Labor and Immigration at The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, MO, June 26-30
  • U-2 Spy Plane Crisis and its Impact on U.S.-U.S.S.R. Relations at the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home, July 17-21
  • Women’s Rights at the National Archives in Washington, DC, July 24-28

Worker and Flag BearerYou will identify between 3 and 5 items (documents, photos, maps, etc.) to digitize and make available online. We will add these to our online tool for teaching with documents——while you’re onsite. During the workshop, you’ll produce a DocsTeach learning activity using these digitized primary sources.

The $100 fee includes all materials. Graduate credit from a major university may be available for an additional fee. Participants will receive a stipend upon successful completion of the course.

Apply no later than six weeks before the workshop. Participation in each session is limited to 10 members. Classes will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Learn more and apply at:


Archival Images:

  • Top – Inside one of the one-room shack dwellings at a labor camp in Mathis, Texas, ca. 5/1948 (Photograph 60-210-40 from the Harry S. Truman Library).
  • Bottom – Flag Bearer for Women’s Rights Standing Near White House, ca. 1920 (Photograph 306-N-70-2641 from the Records of the U.S. Information Agency at the National Archives).


Primarily Teaching workshops are made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation, through the support of Texas Instruments.

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Upcoming PD Webinar: Teaching the Constitution with Political Cartoons

Join us in a free Share My Lesson webinar on March 16th at 7 p.m. EDT to learn about teaching the Constitution using political cartoons.

Uncle Sam driving horses

“This Is the Team That Will Win Every Time,” showing a three-part team made up of the House of Representatives, Senate, and Executive leading the way to victory, 3/27/1898. From the Records of the U.S. Senate. (Available at

Clifford K. Berryman was a cartoonist in Washington, DC, from the 1890s to 1949. A collection of 2,400 original pen-and-ink drawings by Berryman from the U.S. Senate Collection is housed at the Center for Legislative Archives, a part of the National Archives.

During this interactive professional development webinar:

  • Discover how the political cartoons of Clifford K. Berryman can engage students with the U.S. Constitution.
  • Explore how the “Big Ideas” of the Constitution are represented in Berryman’s illustrations.
  • Practice techniques for analyzing political cartoons in the classroom and learn about additional resources from the National Archives.

Register for Free.

One hour of PD credit is available.

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Primary Source Highlights on DocsTeach

We’re constantly updating — the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives. Here are some recent highlights.

Newly Added Primary Sources

Actors watching

Hollywood Ten – We recently added court documents related to the screenwriters, producers, and directors who jeopardized their careers by taking a stand against the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Several court cases, including Dalton Trumbo v. Loew’s Inc., show the ten suing their employers for breach of contract.

Image: Members of the “Hollywood Committee for the First Amendment,” including Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, watch HUAC hearings (Dalton Trumbo v. Loew’s Incorporated, from the Records of District Courts of the United States)

Building with people in front

The Cowen Report – In 1906, the U.S. Government sent immigration inspector Philip Cowen on an undercover mission to Russia to discover the cause of increased Jewish immigration. His findings revealed persecution of Russian Jews, difficult living conditions, economic hardship, and, most tragically, pogroms – targeted attacks on Jews. Read more about his investigation in a recent blog post.

Image: Building with rifle shots, smashed windows, and fire damage (Cowen Report – European Investigation Entry No. 9, from the Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service)

Staff Favorites

We asked our staff to pick a can’t-miss document on DocsTeach. Jenny Sweeney, education specialist at the National Archives at Fort Worth, couldn’t choose just one!

ListHere are a few compelling primary sources that she likes to share with teachers.

Do you have a favorite? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below or at!

What Docs should we add?

Every month the National Archives adds thousands of newly digitized primary sources to the main online catalog. We search through these additions to find those incredible teachable documents that help educators and students unlock the past to add to DocsTeach.

Would you like a say in what we add? Here are some recently digitized collections in our catalog. If you find something that you think your students (and others around the world) would benefit from, let us know. Comment below or send us the URL or the “National Archives Identifier” number.

President Reagan at DeskVideos from the White House Television Office during the Reagan Administration – Coverage includes speeches and remarks, Oval Office visits, bill signings, ceremonies, press conferences, Heads of State visits, trips, Inaugural events, campaign rallies, and Republican National Conventions.

Woman salutingWorld War II Foreign Posters – Produced by foreign information offices and war relief associations in the United States, the posters cover topics such as: children, conservation, employment, victory bonds, black markets, propaganda, recruitment, the Red Cross, sabotage and safety and security.

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Teaching from the Archives

Today’s post about transcribing primary sources in the National Archives Catalog comes from community manager Meredith Doviak. It’s cross-posted on our sister blog NARAtions.

Meredith recently spoke to Dr. Jaime Cantrell, Visiting Assistant Professor of English at The University of Mississippi. Dr. Cantrell has introduced undergraduate students to the importance of archival research and materials by encouraging them to become citizen transcribers for the National Archives as part of their coursework.

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your background and what courses do you teach?

Jaime CantrellI am a Visiting Assistant Professor of English at The University of Mississippi, where I teach courses in English, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Southern Studies, including “American Literature I”, “American Literature II”, “Literary Criticism”, “The South & Sexuality”, “Women in Literature”, and “Queer Theory”. Innovative pedagogy is crucial to my intellectual life as a scholar, and my research and teaching methods challenge institutional and individual biases. In short, I am familiar with teaching against the grain and through an intersectional perspective.

I co-edited Out of the Closet, Into the Archives: Researching Sexual Histories (SUNY Queer Politics and Cultures series, December 2015). With a foreword by Ann Cvetkovich, OCIA meditates on the ways queer archives spark precarious pleasures and compelling tensions for researchers—ultimately taking readers inside the experience of how it feels to do queer archival research and queer research in archives. OCIA is a Lambda Literary Award finalist for Best LGBT Anthology. I am presently at work on a book project titled Southern Sapphisms: Sexuality and Sociality in Literary Productions, 1969-1997.

How do you use the National Archives as a venue for primary sources? Why is this important in the classroom?

Two years ago, in my ENGL223: Survey of American Literature to the Civil War course, I lectured from a unit on our reading schedule titled “The Revolutionary Period”, which included, among other texts, selections from Benjamin Franklin’s The Autobiography Part I (1791) and Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (1785). As I launched into discussions on shifting American identities, a refocusing of the Puritan worldview and the rise of the enlightened citizen (and why students should care that Benjamin Franklin is the most humorous literary voice we’d encountered in class since Thomas Morton!), my students’ eyes wandered away from their textbooks and out the window paneled wall of the large auditorium. Careful not to lose their attention entirely, I enthusiastically redirected their gaze to a library slip from the Free Library of Pennsylvania that once belonged to Franklin, and read across that ephemeral document to his Autobiography: “These Libraries have improv’d the general Conversation of the Americans…” Sadly, that library slip was little more than a stock-Norton power point slide image projected on the screen behind me.

How did you learn about the Citizen Archivist Program at the National Archives?

I hoped to enhance the “general conversation” in my ENGL223 courses by turning to the library—or more specifically, to archives. I applied and was accepted to a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute for College and University Teachers titled “Early American Women’s History: Teaching from the Archives” that took place in Providence, RI, in partnership with the Newell D. Goff Center for Education and Public Programs at the Rhode Island Historical Society. It was an incredible opportunity! Nearly two dozen community college and university professors collaborated for two weeks–intent on developing classroom methodologies to “access, recover, and contextualize the voices of marginalized women…” through archives. We heard lectures from leading scholars in multiple humanities fields; each described their own struggles and successes with archival research. We visited collections, and met with librarians and archivists at The Massachusetts Historical Society, The American Antiquarian Society, the John Hay Library (Brown University), and the RIHS Library. That NEH workshop heralded many productive shifts in my pedagogical practices for ENGL223; I refined strategies for facilitating student access to digitized primary sources. Upon returning to my home institution, I immediately reframed my course description to read (excerpted, in part):

“In 1855, Nathaniel Hawthorne lamented that ‘America is now wholly given over to a damned mob of scribbling women, and I should have no chance of success while the public taste is occupied with their trash-and should be ashamed of myself if I did succeed…” Writers and critics have long tried to dismiss or ignore the achievements of early American women writers. In the last several decades, however, feminist literary critics have recovered the works of women writers and reshaped the early American literary canon to include works from Phillis Wheatley, Lydia Maria Child, Angelina E. Grimké, Fanny Fern, Sarah Orne Jewett, Hannah Webster Foster, Sarah Josepha Hale, and Rebecca Harding Davis, alongside more familiar contributions from Anne Bradstreet, Mary Rowlandson, Abigail Adams, Emily Dickinson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Harriet Jacobs. This course will highlight a number of women’s writings from the colonial period to the middle of the 19th century.…….Particular attention will be paid to questions of race and gender and the relationship between history, culture and writing (including both “literature” and other written or transcribed forms of expression).  As archival collections are increasingly made available online, students will have the opportunity to digitally engage with exciting primary-source materials. In doing so, students become active critics and curators of those literary productions rather than mere explicators of them.”

To date, students in ENGL223 have sifted through the John and Abigail Adams Family Collection to access Abigail’s 1776 letter to John, exhorting him to “Remember the ladies…” (accessible through the Massachusetts Historical Society’s digital repository), they’ve discovered postcards and correspondence from the Charlotte Perkins Gilman Collection, available online from the Harry Ransom Center’s Project REVEAL (Read & View English and American Literature), and they’ve analyzed Emily Dickinson’s poem, “I Heard a fly buzz” in her own handwriting, available through the Dickinson Archive at Harvard’s Houghton Library. I believe the archive—and paradoxically, the past itself—is an innovative path for moving forward into a radical, digital learning future. With that in mind, I turned again to the archives when structuring course assignments, and exhorted students to whet their appetites for archival research by participating in Citizen Archivist Transcription Projects. As part of the assignment, students completed Written Document Analysis worksheets developed by the Education staff at the National Archives. Below is a partial screenshot of a “Getting Started Guide” I posted to our course Blackboard page:

ENGL223 Assignment page

Example of a document selected and transcribed for Dr. Cantrell’s ENGL223 course. U.S. v. Sale of Negro Man, Woman, and Two Children

Example of a document selected and transcribed for Dr. Cantrell’s ENGL223 course.
U.S. v. Sale of Negro Man, Woman, and Two Children. National Archives Identifier 12130607


Did you or your students experience any unexpected hurdles throughout the course of this assignment? How did you resolve them?

Yes, these things do happen. About forty or so of my 120 students experienced difficulty registering their personal and/or university emails with the catalog; Ms. Suzanne Isaacs, my [National Archives] point of contact, was especially generous and gracious in ensuring they were able to register successfully. My own hurdles encompassed fielding questions and concerns from students as they undertook the assignment; to that end, I developed a “Troubleshooting” Blackboard page (see below) to address common concerns as they arose:

ENGL223 screenshot troubleshooting section


For many of your students, this assignment was the first time they had interacted with archives and transcribed historical documents. What were some of their takeaways from the experience?

Michael FortierMichael Fortier, a Junior Psychology major at The University of Mississippi with a minor in Gender Studies, transcribed documents in the National Archives Catalog for the first time during this course. Michael said of his experience, “A lot can be learned just from the use of language, and a lot of history can be uncovered from just a simple document. It really gave me appreciation for bookkeeping in the modern era, and appreciate the importance of it as well. Some of the most interesting revelations I had were from just the few moments I would write out a sentence and then go ‘no, no, that can’t be the right word.’ Discovering what the words could be, and having the same word suddenly make sense to me throughout the entire document was quite fun. It was like a puzzle piece just falling into place.”

While transcribing documents related to legal situations surrounding slaves, Michael learned more about a topic that was previously unfamiliar to him: “It isn’t a topic I find most schools to delve deeply into, and so it was all new information to me. I would love to look over the same kind of documentation about women’s rights battles.”

Katherine Campbell, also a student at The University of Mississippi, describes the connection she felt with the documents as she transcribed: “What makes the process of transcribing documents so engaging is that it allows for a first hand experience of the way that people communicated with each other in the past. Before I participated in the National Citizen Archivist Project I thought that the art of transcription was confined only to important government documents and declarations. Upon visiting the website I found instead an abundance of personal letters and diary entries as well. I was able to view directly the diction people used to speak to each other, their styles of handwriting, and even the type of paper that was used. Transcribing a letter from the 19th Century was like reaching back into history and bringing a small piece of the past into the present.”

Do you have any advice for other educators or students who want to incorporate primary sources in the classroom/are considering contributing as Citizen Archivists?

For educators and students alike: Citizen Archivist transcription projects are both time consuming and rewarding; that pleasure and challenge is a privilege not to be missed.

Are you looking for ways to bring primary sources into the classroom? We can help get you started! Contact us at or You can also explore documents, access teaching activities, and even create your own primary source-based activities on DocsTeach.

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An Invitation to Test a New WWI App

Update, 2/9/17: Sign-ups to test the WWI app are now closed due to your enthusiastic response. You can still download the beta version — and look for the release in the coming month!

Our app developer Historypin is looking for teachers who actively teach World War I in the classroom to test out a new Remembering WWI app before its launch in the next month.

Bear on Soldier's Shoulders

From the app’s Mascots collection: Photograph 165-WW-472A-061; Regimental Mascot; American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs; Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, Record Group 165; National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.

If you’re a classroom teacher interested in testing the beta version and participating in a 25-30 minute call, please sign up with Historypin via the user-testing sign-up form.

Intended in part for classroom instruction, the app provides educators with the digital sources and narrative-building tools to help foster an understanding of the Great War.

The app is currently available for iOS and will be available for Android very soon. For those interested, please download the app in advance of a confirmed user-testing session.

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New Webinar on Teaching the Civil Rights Movement

Join us for “Records of Change: Teaching the Civil Rights Movement with Primary Sources from the National Archives” on February 8 at 4:30 pm ET.

Register for this free webinar now.

For God sakes help those poor innocent people in Selma Alabama.

Excerpt from “Letter from Mrs. E. Jackson in Favor of Voting Rights,” 3/8/1965. From the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Bring the Civil Rights Movement into your classroom with primary sources from the National Archives. During this interactive webinar, examine the Federal Government’s role in advancing the Civil Rights Movement.

Books saying Ruling, Readin', 'ritin', 'Rithmetic

“Fourth ‘R’ in Public Schools,” by Jim Berryman. From the Records of the U.S. Senate.

Explore how the holdings of the NationalArchives reveal the voices of those who advocated for and those who resisted change in this transformative era in American history. Practice techniques for analyzing primary sources and learn about additional resources, including and lesson plans from the Center for Legislative Archives.

This free webinar from our Center for Legislative Archives is hosted by our friends at the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship. It will last approximately one hour. Register now. Connection information will be emailed to registrants the week of the webinar.

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Eyewitness Accounts of Anti-Jewish Persecution in Russia in the Early 20th Century: The Cowen Report

A newly digitized immigration file can help students learn about persecution against Jewish people in Russia in the early 1900s, and how it caused a spike in Jewish immigration to the United States.

plunder and murder were the order of the dayToday’s post comes from classroom teacher Amanda Hatch, writing about the Cowen Report that she digitized and described as a National Archives intern. Please note that this primary source document contains descriptions of disturbing events.

What at first boded to be a lengthy, dry immigration report, soon revealed itself as one of the hidden treasures of the National Archives. Writing in a gripping, first-person narrative, immigration inspector Philip Cowen gives an eyewitness report of anti-Jewish persecution in Russia at the dawn of the 20th century.

Sent by the U.S. Government on an undercover mission, Cowen traveled to the Pale of Settlement in Russia (St. Petersburg, Kief, and Odessa) in order to discover the cause of increased Jewish immigration from Russia to the United States. His findings revealed appalling and unremitting persecution of Russian Jews.

Through a tale of political intrigue, radical revolutionaries, and rampant corruption, Cowen tells of the Russian government’s persecution of Jews. Since 1882, the May Laws forced Jews out of their homes and required them all to live in the Pale of Settlement.

Diagram of HomeCrowded into such a small area, the Jews struggled to find jobs and pay rising rent prices. In poignant pictures and narration, Cowen tells of when he saw eight Jews living in one small room with children sleeping on top of the stove in order to stay warm. Speaking with one such family, Cowen thought he heard the wife say her husband earned 3 roubles a week:

‘What!’ cried she, ‘3 roubles? No, 2 roubles. How happy would we be if he earned three.’…Never in my life did a half dollar seem so large to me.

Yet most tragic of all is Cowen’s description of the 637 pogroms, targeted attacks on Jews, committed against Jewish communities in Russia. During these pogroms, entire Jewish cities were ransacked and destroyed while hundreds of Jews were brutally murdered.

Cowen Report ExcerptCowen writes of these attacks through the stories of eyewitnesses who survived the pogroms. He writes of the Bialystok pogrom: “It lasted from 11 to 6:30PM. The police stood by but sought not to check the awful work, rather encouraging it… The killing was barbarous; nails were driven into the heads of people, their bones were broken in their hands and bodies, and then they were clubbed to death with rifles.”

Photos of homes riddled with gun shots provide a further insight into these terrible events. “The houses looked as if an enemy had gone through the town, its way fought step by step. Scarcely a house occupied by a Jew escaped riddling…”

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In order to escape such persecution, Jews sought to immigrate to America. But by accompanying Jewish immigrants on their journey to escape Russia, Cowen was able to report that Jewish persecution did not end with their departure. Jews were repeatedly charged double or triple the cost of passports and boat tickets to America. Cowen’s report includes details of the immigrants’ voyage as well as photos of Jewish immigrants and a luggage tag.

Luggage tag and immigrants

Cowen’s immigration report truly creates a window into history for students and teachers alike. Through an intriguing first-person narrative, eyewitness accounts and photographs, this document helps students understand the anti-Jewish persecution that existed at the beginning of the 20th century, and explains the spike in Jewish immigration to the United States at that time.

You can read and teach with excerpts of the Cowen Report on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.

Find the entire Cowen Report in our main online catalog. Parts of the report were originally digitized by teachers in our Primarily Teaching 2014 summer workshop in Washington, DC.

All images in this post come from the Cowen Report. The full citation is:

Cowen Report – European Investigation Entry No. 9; 1906 – 1907; File No. 51411/056; Subject and Policy Files, 1893 – 1957; Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Record Group 85; National Archives Building, Washington, DC.

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