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In the 1920s, the United States enjoyed unprecedented prosperity, and many people assumed that poverty would be eliminated entirely. However, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia noticed that as the stock market boomed so did unemployment. After the 1929 stock market crash, La Guardia called for federal aid and made public assistance a reality in New York City. 

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Tuberculosis claimed both Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia’s wife and daughter in 1921. His devastation over this loss coupled with the grim conditions—poor sanitation and overcrowding—that afflicted most of the city’s impoverished citizens lead the mayor to expand public health efforts and to construct public housing projects. 

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This recording explores Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia’s lifelong enthusiasm for aviation—from his service as a bombardier in WWI to his support of the Kelly Bill as a congressman to his absolute dedication to getting New York an airport.

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From the time he took office on January 1, 1934, until American entry into World War II, Fiorello H. La Guardia's public works brought about in New York the greatest government-sponsored municipal transformation in America since Washington, D.C. was created out of Potomac marshlands. The vast physical transformations under La Guardia began with the Triborough Bridge. Robert Moses, the parks commissioner, was instrumental in La Guardia’s massive physical changes to the city. As a result of their often-contentious partnership, gigantic swimming pools, parks, freeways, and other public works would characterize the La Guardia Administration. 

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Professor Richard K. Lieberman, director of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives, describes the rich history of the Steinway & Sons piano company from its origins in the mid-nineteenth century through its rise to becoming one of the foremost piano makers in the world. A CUNY-TV presentation for Admission Services (March, 2004).

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Dr. Richard K. Lieberman, Director of the LaGuardia and Wagner Archives, discusses public higher education's history-- the creation of the G.I. Bill after WWII, the resulting surge in college attendance, and the racial inequalities that veterans of color faced in education.  (New York Times building, November 11, 2009)

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Until his death in March 2009, Dr. John Hope Franklin was one of the most renowned historians of his time and the author of many books, including the landmark "From Slavery to Freedom: A History of African-Americans." An activist as well as scholar, he worked with Thurgood Marshall to strike down segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case and marched with the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. His writing helped to overturn earlier histories which rationalized Jim Crow, slavery, and white supremacy. He became the first African-American to chair a history department at Brooklyn College, and the first African-American president of the American Historical Association. President Bill Clinton awarded the Medal of Freddom to Franklin and appointed him to the Advisory Board to the President's Initiative on Race. His writing was a harbinger and agent of change in the continuing struggle for equality in the United States. 


In this podcast, esteemed historian, Dr. John Hope Franklin discusses intercollegiate athletics, race, and higher education (December 5, 1989).
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Gran Fury was was an artists’ collective that emerged from ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) in 1988 and was devoted to AIDS activism through agitprop art. Gran Fury used public space and and advertising space to bring attention to the AIDS crisis and the lack of government support for people suffering from the disease. Most of their work borrowed the language and rhetoric of advertising as well as radical feminist artists. Tom Kalin was one of the 11 members of the collective. In this oral history, he discusses the origins of Gran Fury, their aesthetics, the collective's artistic process, the representation of people with AIDS, and his own feelings of urgency and fear.

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Sid Davidoff was administrative assistant to Mayor John V. Lindsay for seven years. He was widely considered one of the Mayor’s top personal aides. In this oral history, Davidoff tells the story of the 1968 Columbia University riots and the Lindsay Administration’s involvement in trying to resolve the crisis. Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), a student activist group that helped define New Left politics in the 1960s, called for the university to sever ties from a think tank involved in weapons research for the Vietnam War. At the same time, SDS, black and Puerto Rican students, and community activists opposed Columbia’s construction of a university gym in Morningside Park, arguing the project appropriated public property for the elite students while offering only limited access to Harlem neighborhood residents. Students and Harlem community activists tore down some of the fencing surrounding the gym construction site, marched to campus and occupied Low Library, the university’s main administrative building. Davidoff explains how the administration attempted and failed to facilitate a peaceful solution, revealing the tensions between the different protest groups, the university administration, and the police. 

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Bella Abzug, a Hunter College alumna, discusses women's involvement in government, the contradictory nature of democracy, and feminism. She raises the issues of climate change, gender inequality, and women as agents of social change (CUNY Graduate Center, December 3, 1992). 


Bella Abzug stands with Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem as one of the most important figures in the women's rights movement of the 1970s. Throughout her life, Abzug was known for her loud voice, flamboyant style, and large hats. She began her professional career as a lawyer in the 1940s and was a noted advocate for numerous leftist causes. These included civil rights cases in the South and cases related to the advancement of women's rights. By the late 1960s she had become a vocal critic of the Vietnam War. In 1971, she was elected to serve New York's 19th District in the House of Representatives where she served until 1977. Her tenure in Congress was notable for her unflinching support of women's rights, and she was one of the loudest and most visible supporters of reproductive rights and the Equal Rights Ammendment. In 1977, she competed in the contentious primary for the Democratic nomination for Mayor of New York City, eventually losing to future mayor Ed Koch. After several failed bids for various Congressional seats, Abzug retired from elected office. Though she never again held elected office after 1977, she remained an important figure in politics, women's rights, and social justice causes until her death in 1988. 
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