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Activism

Voting rights. Civil Rights. Reproductive rights. A living wage. Equal access to education. Progress on these and every other major social issue of our time has its roots in the activism and advocacy of everyday people in the past. Did you know it took 100 years for the 19th Amendment to be ratified into the Constitution? One hundred years of American women organizing, campaigning, marching, writing, speaking, protesting, and being jailed.

Collection Objects

Discover the stories behind these objects or explore more collections related to activism and advocacy.

Papier-mache version of the Statue of Liberty. Liberty is Latina and carries a cornucopia of tomatoes instead of a tablet. Instead of a torch, she holds a tomato aloft in her hand.

Kat Rodriguez's Lady Liberty

Sylvia Rivera sits flanked by her partner Julia Murray (right) and activist Christina Hayworth at the Saturday Rally before New York’s Gay Pride Parade in 2000.

A Lifelong Crusader for Trans Rights

Wedding dress with high collar, a jacket with long sleeves, and many ruffles.

The Union of Two Native American Rights Activists

Wooden hatchet featuring art of the turtle, bluebird, rooster, and swallow.

Fighting for Temperance with an Axe

Record that reads "Commodore: Classics in a Swing. 526-A. Strange Fruit. Billie Holiday and Her Orchestra. Piano Interlude by Sonny White."

Billie Holiday Used Her Music to Remember Victims of Lynching

White political poster with black text titled THE ADVANTAGES OF BEING A WOMAN ARTIST

Attacking Sexism and Racism in the Art World

Conversation Kit

Let's Talk! Queen Liliʻuokalani Conversation Kit
Queen Lili'uokalani Teaching and Discussion Guide

Grades 6–12. Time: Variable (1–3 class periods). Aligned to CCSS and C3 standards.

In this lesson plan, students will learn how the legacy of Queen Lili'uokalani, the Hawaiian Kingdom's only reigning queen and last monarch, continues to inspire activism efforts and social movements today.

Videos

In 1970, activist Angela Davis was charged with murder. A movement arose to free her, and her time in jail inspired her to work to change the prison system. Kemi, a student, talks with Kelly Elaine Navies, oral historian at our National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Lady Bird Johnson was a committed supporter of the Civil Rights Movement: from touring the country to speak against racism to refusing to stay in segregated hotels.

Mary Elliot, curator of American slavery at the National Museum of African American History and Culture, shares what Sojourner Truth means to her. Often overlooked, Sojourner Truth was enslaved for 35 years and went on to become a women's rights activist and abolitionist.

Taína Caragol, curator of Latino art and history at the National Portrait Gallery discusses Dolores Huerta, co-founder, with Cesar Chavez, of the United Farm Workers (UFW). Huerta was instrumental in achieving major legal protections and a better standard of living for farm workers. 

Playlist

Women's Liberation

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Songs of activism and protest compiled by Meredith Holmgren, Curator of American Women's Music.

Smithsonian American Women book cover.

Smithsonian American Women

Remarkable objects and stories of strength, ingenuity, and vision from the National Collection.

Buy the Book
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