Lessons From History, Relevant Today: Articles, Essays and Photos
At Retro Report, a Day of Learning and Professional Development for NYC Educators
Learn about our recent education event with New American History and the New York City Department of Education’s Social Studies team
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During WW II, the U.S. Government Was Sometimes the Sitter
Under the Lanham Act of 1940, federal grants to child care centers totaled $52 million.
How the New Deal Created Whites-Only Suburbs
Black neighborhoods continue to show the impact of decades-old race restrictions created by the F.D.R. administration
Local Communities at the Center: The Making of “Hitting Home”
How Retro Report’s Two-Year Project Gave an Inside Look at Evictions During the Pandemic
A Database Giving Clues to Vaccine Side Effects Is Open to Misinterpretation
The F.D.A. warns that VAERS reports “cannot be used to determine if a vaccine caused or contributed to” bad outcomes.
Overcoming Factions: How the Founders Sought to Unify a Nation
‘Liberty is to faction what air is to fire’
We followed people at risk of eviction during the 2021 housing crisis. Here is what we found.
We captured the experiences of vulnerable people across the country.
First-Hand Account: Lessons From the El Mozote Massacre
Raymond Bonner, a New York Times correspondent, was one of the first journalists to uncover evidence of a deadly rampage.
The High Price of Doing Journalism in El Salvador
A reporter teams up with the American journalist who first broke the story of the El Mozote massacre, tracking El Salvador’s faltering efforts to hold the perpetrators accountable, in a new documentary from Retro Report, ProPublica and FRONTLINE.
Big Oil Is Under Mounting Pressure as Climate Action Gains Momentum
The world must quit fossil fuels imminently to avoid a catastrophic global temperature increase, a report urges.
New TV Series Explores the Debate Over a Multiple Personality Diagnosis
“Sybil,” about a woman who claimed to have 16 distinct personalities, sold over 6 million copies.
American Workers Are Rising Up Again. Will This New Energy Lead to Lasting Change?
Renewed interest in unionizing is energizing the American labor movement
A Highway System That Linked – and Divided – Americans May Be Rerouted
Momentum for removing highways is increasing, with racial justice movements amplifying the issue.
Can Employers Require Vaccines? In Courts, the Answer Has Been Yes.
For over a century, decisions have favored states’ power.
Black Swimmers Overcome Racism and Fear, Reclaiming a Tradition
New pool programs are working to overcome an alarming disparity: Black children drown at a rate far higher than that of white children
The C.D.C. Has Been Blocking Evictions. Where Is That Power From?
The Supreme Court rejected the agency’s latest eviction ban extension, putting hundreds of thousands of tenants at risk.
As Afghanistan Collapses, a Lament for ‘Repeating the Same Mistakes’
Officials who drove the decades-long war in Afghanistan look back on the strategic errors and misjudgments that led to a 20-year quagmire.
For Afghan Women, Elusive Gains in Rights Are at Risk
Conservative traditions clash with a push for modernization
How Ping-Pong Thawed a U.S.-China Standoff
A ragtag table tennis team that had to pay its own way to world events (and usually lost) helped to open the door for President Nixon’s 1972 visit.
New Anti-Trans Legislation Has Ties to a Dark Past
Nazis burned down Berlin’s LGBT center, run by the “Einstein of Sex”
Special Education: The 50-Year Fight for the Right to Learn
Today’s special education system was shaped five decades ago, when parents of children with disabilities fought for their right to learn.
The Most Notorious General You’ve Probably Never Heard Of
The man who called himself a war criminal.
How an Abstinence Pledge in the ’90s Shamed a Generation of Evangelicals
The Christian “purity” movement promoted a strict view of abstinence before marriage. But two decades later, some followers are grappling with unforeseen aftershocks.
What Aaron Sorkin Left Out of His Newest Film
“The Trial of the Chicago 7” omitted a spectacularly chaotic episode of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
Black Americans Were Slower to Get the Polio Vaccine, Too.
Covid-19 is exposing inequalities in healthcare that have roots in 1930s “Jim Crow medicine.”
Section 230 Was Created to Shield Sites Like Pornhub. It Might Be Killed for the Same Reason.
Democrats and Republicans agree that the law doesn’t serve Americans but disagree on why. Will a repeal help any of their cases?
Don’t leave fact-checking to the fact-checkers
To stop misinformation at its source, everyone (students especially) should learn how to verify information.
Where the City’s Marshals Get Their Power
These city appointees, who enforce evictions and earn their incomes from fees, are once again emerging as symbols of housing insecurity.
How the Electoral College Upends the Popular Vote, and What’s Needed to Abolish It
Our arcane – some say undemocratic – system dates back to the nation’s founding.
More US Teens Are Getting a Lesson in Evolution
For decades evolution has been a contentious topic in American schools. Something seems to be changing.
As Evictions Loom, Cities Revisit a Housing Solution From the 70s
Proposals giving tenants the right to purchase their building are being revived as Covid-19 puts renters at risk.
What Happens When a Sheriff Challenges an Eviction Order?
Millions of Americans risk losing their homes when back rent comes due in 2021. These two sheriffs, working decades apart, sought compassionate treatment for renters facing eviction.
The Presidential Debates Will Be Weirdly Educational This Year
Onstage sparring between politicians has been a part of U.S. elections for decades. Covid-19 could change that.
Distance Learning Has Been Part of American Culture for 100 Years. Why Can’t We Get it Right?
Educators and parents have let technology solve school in a pandemic. There’s a better way.
75 Years After Atomic Bombs Shook Japan, Witness Accounts Survive
Researchers have found few health differences between survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki – known as hibakusha – and other Japanese. But many suffer from lingering psychological effects.
States Are Expanding Access to Absentee Voting Over Concerns About Coronavirus.
The United States has a long history of voting by mail.
Pandemics Go to the Movies
Hollywood's fascination with diseases, infections and disease-infected zombies has a long history.
The Supreme Court Rules on President Trump's Tax Records
Only three past presidents have been served with subpoenas.
How the Fight Against AIDS Can Inform the Fight Against Covid-19
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci grappled with another health crisis decades ago. What he told Retro Report about the effort against AIDS could apply to the battle against the coronavirus.
The 1968 Kerner Commission Report Still Echoes Across America
Anger over policing and inequality boiled over more than 50 years ago, and a landmark report warned that it could happen again.
Philadelphia's Divisive Mayor Rizzo, In His Own Words
Like President Trump, former Mayor Frank Rizzo styled himself as a straight talker.
When Presidents Send In Federal Troops
The 1807 Insurrection Act has sometimes been used to protect, not suppress, civil rights protests.
Covid-19, Like Other Real-World Events, Has Changed Sports
Baseball, football and college sports have been transformed by what's in the headlines.
In the Race for a Covid-19 Vaccine, History Has Some Red Flags
Immunizations have saved lives, and side effects are rare. But there have been missteps.
A Coronavirus Vaccine in Months? Not So Fast, Scientists Say.
Over 100 Covid-19 vaccines are in the works. History suggests it could take years.
Long-Distance Learning Isn’t New
When a polio outbreak closed Chicago schools in 1937, teachers turned to technology.
As Covid-19 Spreads, Why Does Congress Risk Meeting in Person?
Face-to face meetings are a long tradition, and changes have always been a hard sell.
Covid-19 Contact Tracing Raises Privacy Concerns
Detecting points of contact has become a critical weapon in the fight against the coronavirus.
Superspreaders Are a Covid-19 Mystery
Like Typhoid Mary, some people are experts at passing along infection. No one knows why.
After Covid-19, How Should We Handle the Handshake?
Handshakes, cheek kisses and high-fives are out. What should replace them?
Scapegoating Immigrants During Disease Outbreaks Has a Long History
As reports of attacks on Asian Americans rise, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued language guidelines.
How the Democrats' Biden-Sanders Split Echoes the 1964 GOP Convention
An ideological split among Democrats emerged in the 2020 primary. In 1964, Republicans had to select Nelson Rockefeller, the establishment choice, or Barry Goldwater, a staunch conservative.
He Died Giving a Voice to Chile’s Poor. A Quest for Justice Took Decades.
The activist folk singer Victor Jara was murdered in the days after a 1973 coup that brought Gen. Augusto Pinochet to power. A quest for his killers led to a Florida courtroom.
Religion and Right-Wing Politics: How Evangelicals Reshaped Elections
In the early 1970s, many evangelical Christians weren’t active in politics. Within a few years they had reshaped American politics for a generation.
How an Unsolved Mystery Changed the Way We Take Pills
The origins of tamper-resistant packaging — exasperating yet reassuring — lie in a deadly episode in 1982, when cyanide-laced Tylenol killed seven people.
Gerrymandering Has Led to Odd Political Alliances
Redistricting battles over Congressional seats have roots in a Supreme Court decision 30 years ago.
‘This Is Not a Drill’: The Threat of Nuclear Annihilation
As more nations seek the bomb, and as the United States and Russia expand their nuclear arsenals, veterans of the Cold War say the public is too complacent about the risk of nuclear catastrophe.
George Wallace Tapped Into Racial Fear. Decades Later, Its Force Remains Potent.
President Trump has used us-versus-them rhetoric to appeal to voters who are fed up with the status quo. We look at another politician who tapped into America’s divisions decades ago: George Wallace.
Questioning Evolution: The Push to Change Science Class
A growing skepticism of science has seeped into the classroom, and it’s revived attacks on one of the most established principles of biology – evolution.
Trump’s Argument Against Immigrants: We’ve Heard It Before
Border fences, deportations, and putting “America First.” It all happened in the 1990s, and it started in California.
What the Kitty Genovese Killing Can Teach Today’s Digital Bystanders
Live-streaming apps like Facebook Live and Periscope give us a voyeuristic peek into the lives of others. But what is our obligation when we encounter digital violence?
Chasing Cures for Deadly Scourges, and Getting in Our Own Way
What do the C.I.A. and Nigerian imams have to do with the fight to end polio? Retro Report examines how the worlds of politics and public health can collide.
Who’s Fueling Conspiracy Whisperers’ Falsehoods?
Retro Report explores decades of conspiracy theories -- from the John F. Kennedy assassination to pizzagate -- and what they can tell us about how we view the world today.
The Quest for a Psychiatric Cure
Practiced from the 1930s to the 1950s, a radical surgery — the lobotomy — forever changed our understanding and treatment of the mentally ill.
Amid Leaks, Recalling an Epic Battle Over Press Freedom in Nixon Era
Taking a page from Nixon, President Trump is waging his own battle against leaks, which threatens to damage Americans’ right to know.
Want to Know Where Supreme Court Nominees Stand? Don’t Bother Asking
As the country prepares for the confirmation hearings of Judge Neil Gorsuch, Retro Report explores how the bitter hearings over Judge Robert Bork changed the way nominees answer questions.
Rachel Carson, DDT and the Fight Against Malaria
The author Rachel Carson’s strike against the pesticide DDT turned her into both an environmental hero and a foil for those who believe regulation has gone too far. That fight is more relevant than ever.
Lives and Profits in the Balance: The High Stakes of Medical Patents
Decades after Dr. Jonas Salk opposed patenting the polio vaccine, the pharmaceutical industry has changed. What does that mean for the development of innovative drugs and for people whose lives depend on them?
The Unintended Consequences of Taking a Hard Line on School Discipline
Over the last 30 years, schools across the country have enacted tough disciplinary policies. Did they go too far?
Difficult Questions: How Much the Clinton-Trump Debates Matter
The moments we remember from political debates are embedded in our political folklore, from the knockout lines to the losing gaffes. But does media coverage often miss the real lessons they offer?
Housing Bias and the Roots of Segregation
In 1976, Chicago provided vouchers to African-American families to move into predominantly white suburbs. Retro Report examines what happened, and how it influences policy today.
Phyllis Schlafly’s Lasting Legacy in Defeating the E.R.A.
When Phyllis Schlafly fought the Equal Rights Amendment, which called for equality of rights “on account of sex,” it kicked off a battle that continues to influence political debate today.
Veterans of Atomic Test Blasts: No Warning, and Late Amends
The story of the veterans who witnessed secret atomic testing and how their decades-long struggle for recognition affects soldiers today.
LSD-Like Drugs Are Out of the Haze and Back in the Labs
In the 1960s, mind-altering drugs like LSD helped fuel the counterculture. Today, psychedelics are turning on a new generation – of scientists.
20 Years Later, Welfare Overhaul Resonates for Families and Candidates
Bill Clinton’s 1996 welfare reform was supposed to move needy families off government handouts and onto a path out of poverty. Twenty years later, how has it turned out?
When Youth Violence Spurred ‘Superpredator’ Fear
After a surge of teen violence in the early 1990s, some social scientists predicted the future was going to be a whole lot worse. Reality proved otherwise.
Global Warming Gives Science Behind Nuclear Winter a New Purpose
Carl Sagan and other Cold War scientists once feared that a nuclear war could plunge the world into a deadly ice age. Three decades later, does this theory still resonate?
16 Years After Bush v. Gore, Still Wrestling With Ballot-Box Rules
The dramatic controversy surrounding the 2000 presidential election led to sweeping voting reforms, but opened the door to a new set of problems that continue to impact elections today.
Heroin, Survivor of War on Drugs, Returns With New Face
In the 1970s, frustration over heroin related, urban crime led to the War on Drugs. Today, heroin is back. But the users, and the response, are very different.
Memories of Waco Siege Continue to Fuel Far-Right Groups
In 1993, federal agents raided the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Tex., and generated a legacy of fear that continues to shape antigovernment groups today.CreditCredit...
The Unrealized Horrors of Population Explosion
In the 1960s, fears of overpopulation sparked campaigns for population control. But whatever became of the population bomb?
Action and Dysfunction in the U.S. Food-Safety Effort
A 1993 E. coli outbreak linked to Jack in the Box hamburgers sickened 700 people and drew new attention to the dangers of food-borne illness. More than 20 years later, how far have we come?
Martin Luther King’s Call for Voting Rights Inspired Isolated Hamlet
Weeks before Selma’s Bloody Sunday in 1965, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged residents of Gee’s Bend, Ala., to vote, and fed a continuing fight over a small ferry that would last for decades.
A Discredited Vaccine Study’s Continuing Impact on Public Health
An outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland has turned a spotlight on those who choose not to vaccinate their children. How did we get to a point where personal beliefs can triumph over science?
Debate Persists Over Diagnosing Mental Health Disorders, Long After ‘Sybil’
In the 1970s, the TV movie “Sybil” introduced much of the nation to multiple personality disorder and led to a controversy that continues to shape mental health issues.
Laying Out a Case for Deporting Human Rights Abusers
In 1980, the murder of four American churchwomen focused attention on the United States’ involvement in El Salvador. Nearly 35 years later, the case continues to take surprising turns.
The Cost of Campaigns
The Watergate campaign finance scandals led to a landmark law designed to limit the influence of money in politics. Forty years later, some say the scandal isn’t what’s illegal, it’s what’s legal.
The Rise of the SWAT Team in American Policing
SWAT teams were created in the 1960s to combat hostage-takings, sniper shootings, and violent unrest. But today they’re often used in more controversial police work.
Challenger, Columbia and the Nature of Calamity
Thirty years ago, on Jan. 28, 1986, seven astronauts “slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God.” America’s space program was never the same.
Agent Orange’s Long Legacy, for Vietnam and Veterans
The use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War continues to cast a dark shadow over both American veterans and the Vietnamese.