What Is the American Social History Project?

The American Social History Project (ASHP) is a collaborative initiative that aims to explore the history of American society and culture from a social perspective. It was established in 1981 by a group of historians, educators, and media professionals with the goal of creating innovative educational materials that would engage students and the public in discussions about important topics in American history.

ASHP’s Mission

The mission of ASHP is to promote the study of American social history through research, teaching, and public programming. The project seeks to highlight the perspectives and experiences of ordinary people who have often been overlooked in traditional historical narratives. By examining the social, economic, political, and cultural forces that have shaped American society over time, ASHP aims to foster a deeper understanding of our shared past and present.

ASHP’s Approach

ASHP employs a multidisciplinary approach to studying American social history. The project’s team includes historians, educators, filmmakers, graphic designers, and web developers who work together to create engaging educational materials for diverse audiences. These materials include documentaries, websites, books, curricula, exhibitions, and other media that use primary sources such as diaries, photographs, letters, oral histories, and artifacts to explore different aspects of American social history.

ASHP’s Contributions

ASHP has made significant contributions to the study of American social history over the years. Some notable examples include:

  • The creation of “Who Built America?”, an award-winning series of books and companion website that explores the experiences of working-class people throughout US history.
  • The production of “New York: A Documentary Film”, an eight-part documentary series that chronicles the history of New York City from its founding to the present day.
  • The development of “Picturing United States History”, a free online course that uses visual materials to teach American history to high school and college students.

ASHP’s Impact

ASHP’s work has had a significant impact on the teaching and learning of American social history. Its educational materials have been used in classrooms across the country, and its public programming has reached audiences of all ages and backgrounds. By promoting a more inclusive and nuanced understanding of American history, ASHP has helped to create a more informed and engaged citizenry.


In conclusion, the American Social History Project is an innovative initiative that has made significant contributions to the study of American social history. Its multidisciplinary approach, use of primary sources, and commitment to engaging diverse audiences have helped to promote a deeper understanding of our shared past and present. By continuing to explore new avenues for research, teaching, and public programming, ASHP will undoubtedly continue to shape the field of American social history for years to come.