Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933)
New Deal legislation that established the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) to improve agricultural prices by limiting market supplies; declared unconstitutional in United States v. Butler (1936)
Battle of the Alamo
Siege in the Texas War for Independence, 1836, in which the San Antonio mission fell to the Mexicans, and Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie died.
Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education (1969)
Case fifteen years after the Brown decision in which the U.S. Supreme ordered an immediate end to segregation in public schools.
Alien and Sedition Acts (1798)
Four measures passed during the undeclared war with France that limited the freedoms of speech and press and restricted the liberty of noncitizens.
America First Committee
Largely midwestern isolationist organization supported by many prominent citizens, 1940-41.
American Anti-Slavery Society
National abolitionist organization funded in 1833 by New York philanthropists Arthus and Lewis Tappan, propagandist Theodore Dwight Weld, and others.
American Colonization Society
Organized in 1816 to encourage colonization of free blacks to Africa; West African nation of Liberia founded in 1822 to serve as a homeland for them.
American Federation of Labor
Founded in 1881 as a federation of trade unions, the AFL under president Samuel Gompers successfully pushed for the eight-hour workday.
American Protective Association
Nativist, anti-Catholic secret society founded in Iowa in 1887 and active until the end of the century.
Program of internal improvements and protective tariffs promoted by Speaker of the House Henry Clay in his presidential campaign of 1824; his proposals formed the core of Whig ideology in the 1830s and 1840s.
Battle of Antietam (Battle of Sharpsburg)
One of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War, fought to a standoff on September 17, 1862, in western Maryland.
Forerunners of Thomas Jefferson's Democratic-Republican party; opposed the Constitution as a limitation on individual and states' rights, which led to the addition of a Bill of Rights to the document.
Appomattox Court House, Virginia
Site of the surrender of Confederate general Robert E. Lee to Union general Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865, marking the end of the Civil War.
Televised U.S. Senate hearings in 1954 on Senator Joseph McCarthy's charges of disloyalty in the Army; his tactics contributed to his censure by the Senate.
Speech to the Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895 by educator Booker T. Washington, the leading black spokesman of the day; black scholar W. E. B. Du Bois gave the speech its derisive name and critized Washington for encouraging blacks to accomodate segregation and disengranchisement.
Issued August 12, 1941, following meetings in Newfoundland between President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston Churchill, the charter signaled the allies' cooperation and stated their war aims.
Atomic Energy Commission
Created in 1946 to supervise peacetime uses of atomic energy.
In World War II, the nations of Germany, Italy, and Japan.
Mesoamerican people who were conquered by the Spanish under Hernando Cortés, 1519-28.
Markedly higher birth rate in the years following World War II; led to the biggest demographic "bubble" in American history.
Unsuccessful 1676 revolt led by planter Nathaniel Bacon against Virginia governor William Berkeley's administration because it had failed to protect settlers from Indian raids.
Bakke v. Board of Regents of California (1978)
Case in which U.S. Supreme Court ruled against the California university system's use of racial quotas in admission.
Balance of trade
ratio of imports to exports.
Bank of the United States
Proposed by the first secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, the bank opened in 1791 and operated until 1811 to issue a uniform currency, make business loans, and collect tax monies. The Second Bank of the United States was chartered in 1816 but was not renewed by President Andrew Jackson twenty years later.
Plundering pirates off the Mediterranean coast of Africa; President Thomas Jefferson's refusal to pay them tribute to protect American ships sparked an undeclared naval war with North African nations, 1801-1805.
First practical fencing material for the Great Plains was invented in 1873 and rapidly spelled the end of the open range.
Battle of the Currents
Conflict in the late 1880s between inventors Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over direct versus alternating electric current; Westinghouse's alternating current (AC), the winner, allowed electricity to travel over long distances.
Bay of Pigs Invasion
Hoping to inspire a revolt against Fidel Castro, the CIA sent 1,500 Cuban exiles to invade their homeland on April 17, 1961, but the mission was a spectacular failure.
Bill of Rights
First ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1791 to guarantee individual rights and to help secure ratification of the Constitution by the states.
Black Codes (1865-66)
Laws passed in southern states to restrict the rights of former slaves; to combat the codes, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Fourteenth Amendment and set up military governments in southern states that refused to ratify the amendment.
Post-1966 rallying cry of a more militant civil rights movement.
Bland-Allison Act (1878)
Passed over a President Rutherford B. Hayes's veto, the inflationary measure authorized the purchase each month of 2 to 4 million dollars' worth of silver for coinage.
Violence between pro- and antislavery settlers in the Kansas Territory, 1856.
Waving the bloody shirt
Republican references to Reconstruction-era violence in the South, used effectively in northern political campaigns against Democrats.
Bonus Expeditionary Force
Thousands of World War I veterans, who insisted on immediate payment of their bonus certificates, marched on Washington in 1932; violence ensued when President Herbert Hoover ordered their tent villages cleared.
Clash between British soldiers and a Boston mob, March 5, 1770, in which five colonists were killed.
Boston Tea Party
On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty, dressed as Indians, dumped hundreds of chests of tea into Boston harbor to protest the Tea Act of 1773, under which the British exported to the colonies millions of pounds of cheap-but still taxed-tea, thereby undercutting the price of smuggled tea and forcing payment of the tea duty.
Chinese nationalist protest against Western commercial domination and cultural influence, 1900; a coalition of American, European, and Japanese forces put down the rebellion and reclaimed captured embassies in Peking (Beijing) within the year.
Group of advisers-many of them academics-that Franklin D. Roosevelt assembled to recommend New Deal policies during the early months of his presidency.
Religious cult that lived communally near Waco, Texas, and was involved in a fiery 1993 confrontation with federal authorities in which dozens of cult members died.
Transcendentalist commune in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, populated from 1841 to 1847 principally by writers (Nathaniel Hawthorne, for one) and other intellectuals.
Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down racial segregation in public education and declared "separate but equal" unconstitutional.
Budget and Accounting Act of 1921
Created the Bureau of the Budget and the General Accounting Office.
Battles of Bull Run (First and Second Manassas)
First land engagement of the Civil War took place on July 21, 1861, at Manassas Junction, Virginia, at which surprised Union troops quickly retreated; one year later, on August 29-30, Confederates captured the federal supply depot and forced Union troops back to Washington.
Battle of Bunker Hill
First major battle of the Revolutionary War; it actually took place at nearby Breed's Hill, Massachusetts, on June 17, 1775.
Area of western New York strongly influenced by the revivalist fervor of the Second Great awakening; Disciples of Christ and Mormons are among the many sects that trace their roots to the phenomenon.
Scheme by Vice-President Aaron Burr to lead the secession of the Louisiana Territory from the United States; captured in 1807 and charged with treason, Burr was acquitted by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Bush v. Gore (2000)
U.S. Supreme Court case that determined the winner of the disputed 2000 presidential election.
In making the proslavery response to the Wilmot Proviso, Senator John C. Calhoun argued that barring slavery in Mexican acquisitions would violate the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution by depriving slaveholding settlers of their property.
Doctrine of predestination expounded by Swiss theologian John Calvin in 1536; influenced the Puritan, Presbyterian, German and Dutch Reformed, and Huguenot churches in the colonies.
Camp David Accords
Peace agreement between Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, brokered by President Jimmy Carter in 1978.
Northern emigrants who participated in the Republican governments of the Reconstruction South.
Battle of Chancellorsville
Confederate general Robert E. Lee won his last major victory and General "Stonewall" Jackson died in this Civil War battle in northern Virginia on May 1-4, 1863.
Battle of Chattanooga
Union victory in eastern Tennessee on November 23-25, 1863; gave the North control of important rail lines and cleared the way for General William T. Sherman's march into Georgia.
Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)
Halted Chinese immigration to the United States.
Civil Rights Act of 1866
Along with the Fourteenth Amendment, guaranteed the rights of citizenship to freedmen.
Civil Rights Act of 1957
First federal civil rights law since Reconstruction; established the Civil Rights Commission and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Outlawed discrimination in public accommodations and employment.
Superior oceangoing sailing ships of the 1840s to 1860s that cut travel time in half; the clipper ship route around Cape Horn was the fastest way to travel between the coasts of the United States.
Hiring requirement that all workers in a business must be union members.
Coercive Acts/Intolerable Acts (1774)
Four parliamentary measures in reaction to the Boston Tea Party that forced payment for the tea, disallowed colonial trials of British soldiers, forced their quartering in private homes, and set up a military government.
Term for tensions, 1945-89, between the Soviet Union and the United States, the two major world powers after World War II.
Commonwealth v. Hunt (1842)
Landmark ruling of the Massachusetts supreme court establishing the legality of labor unions.
Compromise of 1850
Complex compromise mediated by Senator Henry Clay that headed off southern secession over California statehood; to appease the South it included a stronger fugitive slave law and delayed determination of the slave status of the New Mexico and Utah territories.
Compromise of 1877
Deal made by a special congressional commission on March 2, 1877, to resolve the disputed presidential election of 1876; Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who had lost the popular vote, was declared the winner in exchange for the withdrawal of federal troops from the South, marking the end of Reconstruction.
Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)
Umbrella organization of semi-skilled industrial unions, formed in 1935 as the Committee for Industrial Organization and renamed in 1938.
Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)
Civil rights organization started in 1944 and best known for its "freedom rides," bus journeys challenging racial segregation in the South in 1961.
Phrase referring to extravagant spending to raise social standing, coined by Thorstein Veblen in The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899).
Meeting in Philadelphia, May 25-September 17, 1787, of representatives from twelve colonies-excepting Rhode Island-to revise the existing Articles of Confederation; convention soon resolved to produce an entirely new constitution.
General U.S. strategy in the cold war that called for containing Soviet expansion; originally devised in 1947 by U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan.
Army authorized by the Continental Congress, 1775-84, to fight the British; commanded by General George Washington.
Representatives of a loose confederation of colonies met first in Philadelphia in 1774 to formulate actions against British policies; the Second Continental Congress (1775-89) conducted the war and adopted the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation.
System developed in the post-Civil War South that generated income for the states and satisfied planters' need for cheap labor by renting prisoners outh; the convicts, however, were often treated poorly.
Northerners opposed to the Civil War.
Battle of the Coral Sea
Fought on May 7-8, 1942, near the eastern coast of Australia, it was the first U.S. naval victory over Japan in World War II.
Invented by Eli Whitney in 1793, the machine separated cotton seed from cotton fiber, speeding cotton processing and making profitable the cultivation of the more hardy, but difficult to clean, short-staple cotton; led directly to the dramatic nineteenth-century expansion of slavery in the South.
"Hippie" youth culture of the 1960s, which rejected the values of the dominant culture in favor of illicit drugs, communes, free sex, and rock music.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt's failed 1937 attempt to increase the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices from nine to fifteen in order to save his Second New Deal programs from constitutional challenges.
Credit Mobilier scandal
Millions of dollar in overcharges for building the Union Pacific Railroad were exposed; high officials of the Ulysses S. Grant administration were implicated but never charged.
Cuban missile crisis
Caused when the United States discovered Soviet offensive missile sites in Cuba in October 1962; the U.S.-Soviet confrontation was the cold war's closest brush with nuclear war.
Merchants extended credit to tenants based on their future crops, but high interest rates and the uncertainties of farming often led to inescapable debts (debt peonage).
June 6, 1944, when an Allied amphibious assault landed on the Normandy coast and established a foothold in Europe from which Hitler's defenses could not recover.
Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819)
U.S. Supreme Court upheld the original charter of the college against New Hampshire's attempt to alter the board of trustees; set precedent of support of contracts against state interference.
Declaration of Independence
Document adopted on July 4, 1776, that made the break with Britain official; drafted by a committee of the Second Continental Congress including principal writer Thomas Jefferson.
Enlightenment thought applied to religion; emphasized reason, morality, and natural law.
Department of Homeland Security
Created to coordinate federal antiterrorist activity following the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Depression of 1893
Worst depression of the century, set off by a railroad failure, too much speculation on Wall Street, and low agricultural prices.
Deep South delegates who walked out of the 1948 Democratic National Convention in protest of the party's support for civil rights legislation and later formed the States' Rights (Dixiecrat) party, which nominated Strom Thurmond of South Carolina for president.
Dominion of New England
Consolidation into a single colony of the New England colonies-and later New York and New Jersey-by royal governor Edmund Andros in 1686; dominion reverted to individual colonial governments three years later.
Forty-seven surviving members of a group of migrants to California were forced to resort to cannibalism to survive a brutal winter trapped in the Sierra Nevadas, 1846-47; highest death toll of any group traveling the Overland Trail.
Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857)
U.S. Supreme Court decision in which Chief Justice Roger B. Taney ruled that slaves could not sue for freedom and that Congress could not prohibit slavery in the territories, on the grounds that such a prohibition would violate the Fifth Amendment rights of slaveholders.
Clause in the Fifth and the Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing that states could not "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law."
Great Plains counties where millions of tons of topsoil were blown away from parched farmland in the 1930s; massive migration of farm families followed.
Eighteenth Amendment (1919)
Prohibition amendment that made illegal the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcoholic beverages.
Reception center in New York Harbor through which most European immigrants to America were processed from 1892 to 1954.
Emancipation Proclamation (1863)
President Abraham Lincoln issued a preliminary proclamation on September 22, 1862, freeing the slaves in the Confederate states as of January 1, 1863, the date of the final proclamation.
Embargo Act of 1807
Attempt to exert economic pressure instead of waging war in reaction to continued British impressment of American sailors; smugglers easily circumvented the embargo, and it was repealed two yearls later.
Emergency Banking Relief Act (1933)
First New Deal measure that provided for reopening the banks under strict conditions and took the United States off the gold standard.
Emergency Immigration Act of 1921
Limited U.S. immigration to 3 percent of each foreign-born nationality in the 1910 census; three years later Congress restricted immigration even further.
System under which officers of the Spanish conquistadores gained ownership of Indian land.
Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, built in 1944, the early, cumbersome ancestor of the modern computer.
Revolution in thought begun in the seventeenth century that emphasized reason and science over the authority of traditional religion.
American B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Created in 1970 during the first administration of President Richard M. Nixon to oversee federal pollution control efforts.
Equal Rights Amendment
Amendment to guarantee equal rights for women, intorudced in 1923 but not passed by Congress until 1972; it failed to be ratified by the states.
Era of Good Feelings
Contemporary characterization of the administration of popular Deomcratic-Republican president James Monroe, 1817-25.
Most important and profitable of the barge canals of the 1820s and 1830s; stretched from Buffalo to Albany, New York, connecting the Great Lakes to the East Coast and making New York City the nation's largest port.
Espionage and Sedition Acts (1917-18)
Limited criticism of government leaders and policies by imposing fines and prison terms on those who acted out in opposition to the First World War; the most repressive measures passed up to that time.