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Capitol History Blog

Discover the Capitol History Blog, where we give current and future scholars a forum for their insights on history and the relevance of those events today. Contributors include our staff, fellows, communications and research interns, and other guest contributors including historians and industry experts. To learn more about our fellowship and internship programs, follow the links.

Worker Rights, Congress & the Movement for a Shorter Work Week

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, flexible schedules became the norm at many workplaces as many people now increasingly work from home. While there are benefits to this change, many American workers still feel overworked, especially as the division between home and the office is muddled by technology. As a result, there is rising interest among companies, members of the workforce, and elected officials to redesign the structure of American labor—including the potential adoption of a four-day work week. As society…

Paving a New Future for the NCAA in Congress: The Implications of the SCOTUS Decision Backing Payments for Student-Athletes

On Monday, June 21, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) cannot limit education-related benefits for student-athletes—a landmark decision that shakes to the core the foundation of amateurism in college athletics. Although the ruling solely focuses on benefits and payments to athletes related to education—like tuition, study abroad opportunities, paid internships, computers, and graduate scholarships—the ruling’s precedent opens the door to other challenges to the NCAA’s rules on student-athlete compensation. Surely enough, just…

Examining the Art of the Cox Corridors

The Cox Corridors contain some of the most outstanding narrative and historical art in the U.S. Capitol. These murals are located on the first floor of the House wing and depict significant events and periods in American history. The corridors were painted by artist Allyn Cox and later finished by Jeffrey Greene after Cox’s death. Their work includes the Great Experiment Hall, which contains art that focuses on the nation’s founding, and significant events and actions in our history; the…

A Summary History of LGBTQ+ Legislation and Representation within Congress

Last month, many across the country celebrated Pride Month in recognition of the LGBTQ+ community and its growing acceptance in American society. As such, it’s important to consider the history of LGBTQ+ legislation and representation in Congress, which has largely mirrored popular opinion—both in support of the movement and against it. The exact beginning of Federal anti-gay legislation is difficult to determine. Many early laws and resolutions banned sodomy and “obscenities,” categories which included gay relationships without explicitly referencing homosexuality….

Widow’s Succession: How Women First Gained a Foothold in Congress

On November 11, 2019, Maya Michelle Rockeymoore Cummings announced that she was running for the Maryland 7th Congressional district seat—which had been previously occupied by her late husband Elijah Cummings, who died in October of 2019. In a frank discussion following her campaign’s eventual defeat, she revealed: “People don’t know what to make of me … They have no idea of my background and what my accomplishments have been in life. They just think that I rode in on the arm of my…

The Long History of Our New Federal Holiday: Juneteenth

On Saturday June 19, we celebrated Juneteenth—the annual holiday that marks the end of slavery in America. But it wasn’t until last week that the nation celebrated it as a federal holiday. Last Tuesday, the Senate unanimously passed a bill to recognize Juneteenth at the federal level—and on Wednesday, the same bill quickly made its way through the House. With Congress on board, all that was left was President Joe Biden’s signature, which he gave on Thursday. The reason Congress…

A Potential New Future for an Enduring Draft System

Recently, discussion of the American military conscription draft system permeated news outlets, since last week the Supreme Court declined to take the case NATIONAL COALITION FOR MEN, ET AL. v. SELECTIVE SERVICE SYSTEM, ET AL., which confronts the longstanding tradition of a male-only draft in the United States. In her statement regarding the case, Justice Sotomayor, joined by Justices Breyer and Kavanaugh, explained that the Court’s reasoning for not taking the case is due to the fact that Congress is…

Environmentalism and the United States

On April 23, 2022, President Biden attended a virtual global climate summit where he, alongside other nations, committed to significant new efforts to reduce carbon emissions and fight climate change. During the summit, he stated that his administration would aim to cut U.S. coal and petroleum emissions in half by 2030. To help accomplish this, Biden has introduced the American Jobs Plan and the complementary Made in America Tax Plan, which together propose $2 trillion in infrastructure spending with a…

1861 v. 2021: Quartering of Troops in the U.S. Capitol

On April 15th, 1861, a few days after Confederate cannons opened fire on Fort Sumter, President Abraham Lincoln called for 75,000 troops to be deployed to Washington D.C. to protect the seat of government and suppress the rebellion. Within a few days, volunteer Union troops from Pennsylvania answered the call and were quartered in the House wing of the Capitol. Next, the Sixth Regiment from Massachusetts set up camp in the Senate wing. Before long, thousands of soldiers occupied the…

2021 Capitol Insurrection in the Context of the Civil War

On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, a throng of insurrectionists attacked the U.S. Capitol in a failed effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Hundreds of rioters aggressively marched toward the Capitol to protest outside and break into the building. In the process, they harmed police officers and vandalized and looted while they sought to find and harm members of Congress. The riot led to the evacuation and lockdown of the Capitol and caused several deaths and injuries. While…