The History of Poverty in America
September 15, 2012

Web Resources


  Website: Description:

Photojournalists have compiled images of poverty in America to create Photo Essays on various topics from ‘Labor Camps’ to ‘Children of Poverty’.  Aside from displaying these moving essays, this site shares statistics and stories on poverty in various states and ways to get involved in helping to solve one of this nation’s largest problems.

American Public Media, American RadioWorks – “War on Poverty: From the Great Society to the Great Recession”


Here, you are provided with brief, easy-to-digest descriptions of many different topics about poverty in America today; which include definitions and current facts and statistics. As an extension, each description provides a link to an outside, scholarly site or article for more in-depth reading.

American Public Media, On Being with Krista Tippett – “Seeing Poverty after Katrina”


On this website, you can listen to a free radio podcast hosted by Krista Tippett “Seeing Poverty After Katrina”. You can also read David Hilfiker’s summary of the causes and cures of povertyamong AfricanAmericans in the inner city as laid out in his booklet, Poverty in Urban America., The Plow that Broke the Plains


This is a 1936, government-funded documentary about events that lead to over-farming in the American Plains, which then lead to the “Dust Bowl”.


Democracy Now!, Stephen Pimare on “A People’s History of Poverty in America”


Amy Goodman interviews Stephen Pimpare about his research on the history of poverty in America and his book A People’s History of Poverty in America.  His claim is that our view on what poverty is in America is very different than its reality and that the situation of the poor has not, in fact, gotten ‘better’ over time.


Feeding America


“Our mission is to feed America’s hungry though a nationwide network of member food banks and engage our country in the fight to end hunger.”
Learn about personal situations, more of what Feeding America does, and what we can do to help.

The History Place, Child Labor in America 1908-1912


This website provides images, with descriptions, of child workers by the famous Lewis W. Hine.

Library of Congress, American Memory – “American from the Great Depression to World War II: Black and White Photographs from the FSA-OWI”


Here, you can search the Library of Congress’s huge photograph collections from 1935 - 1945 by subject, geography, or creator. There are also various collections created for special subject-specific collections.

Library of Congress, "Out of the Dust: Visions of Dust Bowl History" lesson plan

Lesson plan for grades 3-5 or 6-8.

“Much of history is interpreted from an adult point of view. This unit helps students gain an understanding of Dust Bowl history through the eyes of a child. Using Karen Hesse’s Newbery Award-winning Out of the Dust as an introduction to this aspect of the Great Depression, students have the opportunity to identify with the personal experiences of youth in the 1930s. In addition, students examine primary source materials of the period to correlate the fictional text with actual visual, auditory, and manuscript accounts as found in the American Memory collections."

The National Poverty Center, University of Michigan

The National Poverty Center promotes multidisciplinary research on poverty – specifically on the causes and consequences of poverty, trains the next generation of poverty researchers, and informs the public. This is a wonderful resource for teachers looking for the most up-to-date research on poverty in America. Here, you will find multiple working papers and policy briefs, multimedia presentations, and current facts about poverty in the U.S.

New Deal Network

Everything New Deal and more can be found here. There are not only speeches, documents, and photographs; but also lesson plans, resource links, interviews, and articles.  Much of the focus is on the New Deal, though this site also provides many resources for the Great Depression, and individuals and other events from this time period.

NYSUT, Speak Up Speak Out – Robert F. Kennedy: Champion of Social Justice” Grade 11 Lesson Plan


“The lesson plans in this guide, developed in a partnership between New York State United Teachers and the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, focus on his passionate commitment to social justice. That passion and commitment inspired millions….
As teachers share the lessons in this guide, students across New York state will be inspired to recognize that gift of courage in themselves. Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy lives on in countless individuals who fight for justice around the world — and in every child who is inspired by his legacy to ‘speak up, speak out.’  “
 – Kerry Kennedy (“Dear Educators” introduction to this unit)

PBS, POV: Waging a Living, "Living Wage v. Minimum Wage: What's the Difference?" lesson plan

Lesson plan for grades 9-12.

"This lesson will help students:

  • Learn about the history of wage policy in the U.S., including the role of Henry Ford and the passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Understand the difference between "minimum wage" and "living wage"
  • Calculate what amounts to a living wage in their community
  • Understand the kinds of things they can do to increase their ability to earn a living wage
  • Practice persuasive writing"

Poverty in America: One Nation Pulling Apart, Penn State

This research project focuses on finding a new understanding of the manifestation, meaning, and causes of economic distress by examining community social and economic conditions nationwide.

Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights, “From the RFK Memorial Poverty Tour: Fields Ripe with Injustice”

“The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights is a non-profit organization that engages in long-term partnerships with human rights activists in 21 countries around the world, including the United States, advocating for the social justice goals they champion.”, Poverty: An American Tradition

This is a review of Stephen Pimpare’s book, The People’s History of Poverty in America. New Press, 2008.

The United States Census Bureau

Browse this site to explore reports on poverty data in the U.S. Be sure to select the ABOUT POVERTY tab, and then “History of Poverty Measure”, to find links to historical data and artifacts. You may also want to select the DATA tab, and then “Historical Tables” to browse a wealth of historical poverty data by topic.

YouTube, LBJ State of Union War on Poverty

This is a clip from President Johnson’s State of the Union Address on January 8, 1964 where he outlines the need and necessary actions to fight poverty in America. The length of this clip is 6 minutes and 19 seconds.