American History Websites for Use in Secondary Schools


William P. Leeman

This article consists of a selection of Internet sites relating to American history. Its purpose is to provide secondary school social studies teachers with a substantial list of U.S. history websites, categorized by time period and including brief descriptions of their features, that are suitable for use in the classroom and for outside student research. The websites are divided into seventeen different periods of American history, beginning with the European encounter with the New World in 1492 and continuing through to the 1990s. There is also a list of general American history websites, a series of questions that can be used to evaluate the quality of websites, and a set of guidelines for students using the Internet as a research tool.

Please Note: Many websites not listed here were examined and rejected because of questionable content, historical inaccuracies, or lack of quality. Teachers should always examine completely any website they intend to use with their classes. Also, please be advised that website addresses and features can change over time.


I. Encounter (1492-1600)

Discoverers Web

This site is a vast source of information on exploration. Some of the features include an alphabetical list of famous and less well-known explorers, a list of explorers who died during voyages, a collection of explorer pictures and drawings, and a list of primary and secondary sources relating to exploration. In addition to these sections, there is a history of exploration section which begins with exploration in the days of the Romans and continues to the twentieth century. This site contains information on world explorers, not just those who were significant to America. This site earned an Education World Award as an excellent Internet source.


1492: An Ongoing Voyage

This site relates to a Library of Congress exhibit on Christopher Columbus. It includes sections on peoples living in America before 1492 (North America, South Atlantic, Andes region, Middle America, Caribbean), on Columbus himself (includes picture of his coat of arms), and on the relationship between Europeans and Native Americans. A suggested reading list is included and includes works on exploration and Native Americans.


Christopher Columbus

The site features a fairly detailed timeline of Columbus’s life, including his early years, his first voyages as a merchant, and the voyage in which he arrived at the New World. There is a very interesting section on myths about Columbus, a map of his voyages, and a brief biography of him.

II. Colonial Period (1600-1775)

Plymouth Plantation

The section on the village is excellent. There is a diagram of the buildings and one can click on a particular building to receive more information on the building and a color photograph of it. The section on the Mayflower features a diagram of the ship with its compartments labeled. A passenger list and a copy of the Mayflower Compact are also available. Subsequent sections deal with the Wampanoag Indians, the first Thanksgiving, Pilgrim religion, and a bibliography of sources on the above topics. This site would be helpful in planning a field trip to the plantation.


Colonial USA

This site is an excellent collection of primary source material. It contains links to colonial era documents such as the Mayflower Compact, the charters for Virginia, Maryland, and Massachusetts Bay, and several other documents. There is also a link to a Jamestown History Page, which gives a general history of the Jamestown settlement (user can click on terms like John Smith and Virginia Company to get more information) and provides color pictures.


William Penn

This site is devoted to the founder of Pennsylvania. It includes a portrait of William Penn, a section on the city planning by Penn for Philadelphia (an early city plan diagram is included), and a section on Penn’s dealings with Native Americans. A bibliography of sources on Penn, Pennsylvania, and Philadelphia is provided.

Salem Witch Trials

The most useful part of this site is its frequently asked questions section (FAQ), which includes the option of e-mailing the museum to ask more questions. There is a brief overview of the history of the witch trials with photographs of scenes in the museum and a brief history of Salem apart from the infamous trials.


French and Indian War

This site features information on the prelude to the war, brief descriptions of the battles (arranged by year), pictures and descriptions of French and British forts, and a bibliography of sources for further information.


III. The American Revolution (1775-1783)

Revolutionary War: A Journey Toward Freedom

The Infopedia section contains documents, a virtual tour of Valley Forge, and information on key figures (with pictures), major battles, colonial era recipes, and sources for more information. The “Teacher’s Corner” section provides a forum for online discussions, downloadable word searches for students, a classroom learning station plan, and links to other useful sites. Elementary and middle school students can participate in the “Fun Zone” area for trivia quizzes and activities.


King George III

This site focuses on the life of the British monarch who reigned during the American Revolution. The site includes a brief biography of George III with a color portrait of him. There is also extensive information on George III’s family genealogy.


IV. Creating the Government (1776-1789)

Independence National Historic Park, Philadelphia

This site focuses on the historical landmarks in Philadelphia such as Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell, Carpenters Hall, and Declaration House (the house where Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence). There is a good map of the Philadelphia historic area.


The Articles of Confederation

This site contains the complete text of the document that outlined the American government prior to the Constitution.


V. Early Republic Period (1789-1824)

War of 1812

This site contains sections that provide information on the causes of the war, the major battles, and the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the war. Most of the information is in the form of brief descriptions, and there are several photographs (usually in color) included.

Lewis and Clark

The information on this website is coordinated with the recent Ken Burns PBS series on the Lewis and Clark expedition. The “Corps of Discovery” section features a map of the expedition, biographical information on the explorers, information on how the explorers prepared for their journey, a list of supplies that the explorers brought with them, and general information on life in 1803. There is also a section on Native Americans in the Western territories and an archive, which includes explorer journals, a timeline, links to other websites, sources for more information, and interviews with Lewis and Clark scholars.


George Washington’s Mount Vernon

This site deals with the Virginia home of George Washington and is an excellent source of information about the Washington presidency (and the American Revolution). The site features a virtual tour of the main house, an archaeology section devoted to the excavations that have occurred on the grounds, and an educational resources section that contains an on-line quiz, biographical information on Washington, information about Washington’s views on slavery, and a picture gallery.


Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello

This site deals with the Virginia home of Thomas Jefferson. The site concentrates on the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, and the Jefferson presidency. The “Matters of Fact” section features an index of famous Jefferson quotes, a bibliography of sources relating to Jefferson and Monticello, and lesson plans dealing with Jefferson that use the Internet. There is also an area where young children can ask “Mr. Jefferson” questions over the Internet and receive answers by Internet. The response is worded like Jefferson would have written (using eighteenth century expressions and language). The “Day in the Life” section tells what a typical day for Jefferson was like.


VI. Manifest Destiny, Expansion, and Slavery (1824-1861)

The Oregon Trail

The “All About the Trai#148; section features an introduction, information on explorers, preparation for the long journey (e.g., jumping off cities, supplies, wagons), the route, hardships suffered on the trail, Native Americans, and buffalo. The “Fantastic Facts” section contains humorous anecdotes about the Oregon Trail. The “Historic Sites” section gives information on landmarks along the trail. This site is very comprehensive and would serve as an excellent supplement to the Oregon Trail CD-ROM game.


Underground Railroad

The site provides information on what the Underground Railroad was, on the Abolitionist movement, on the Fugitive Slave Bill of 1850, and brief biographies of some key figures such as Frederick Douglass. Also included are a map of the Underground railroad routes, a reward poster for escaped slaves, a bibliography, and literature selections from people like Abraham Lincoln and Walt Whitman.


VII. Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1877)

American Civil War Home Page

This very comprehensive site is divided into the following sections: general civil war resources, the secession crisis, images, documents, bibliography, state and local Civil War histories, battles, regimental histories, miscellaneous military information, Civil War reenactments, and Civil War round tables.


Civil War Archive

This site is devoted mainly to the individual army units that fought in the war. One section deals with the histories of Civil War regiments by state. Another section focuses on the histories of the various corps that made up the United States Army during the Civil War. The website also contains some letters from the Civil War era.


Civil War Page

This site offers an unbelievable collection of Internet resources on every aspect of the Civil War arranged by topic. There are the traditional topics such as battles, Abraham Lincoln, and generals. There are also lesser known topics such as Canadian soldiers in the war, Civil War money, and Civil War movies. This is a very useful site.


Civil War Medicine

The first part of the website provides a general overview of Civil War medicine including the staff and supplies of the U.S. Army Medical Corps. Subsequent sections deal with medical technology, medical training, amputations, how the wounded were transported, and a bibliography of sources.


Civil War Naval History

This site is on United States Naval Historical Center home page. One has to scroll down through the American wars to get to the Civil War information. The Civil War information includes a detailed timeline of the Civil War from the U.S. Navy point of view, a general overview of naval operations in the war, information on some naval warships from the war, and a comprehensive bibliography. The site does not have many graphics but is a good source of information about the naval Civil War, which is often overlooked in favor of the more famous land battles.


Civil War Women Internet Resources

Duke University provides this collection of mostly primary sources relating to women in the Civil War. Diaries, letters, and personal narratives are included. An example of one of the collections is the correspondence of Rose Greenhow, a Confederate spy, to Jefferson Davis. In addition to the primary sources, the site contains links to websites featuring photographs, to the resources of the National Archives and Library of Congress, and to general Civil War sites.


Opposing Views on Reconstruction

The information on this site deals with the differing views within the American government over Reconstruction issues, especially differences between President Johnson and Congress.


VIII. Gilded Age and America as a World Power (1877-1900)

Andrew Carnegie

This site provides information on both Andrew Carnegie himself and the Gilded Age in general. Some of the features include a timeline of Carnegie’s life, some aspects of his personality, his move from Scotland to the United States, and his activities in Pittsburgh. In the “Era of Extremes” section, there is information about famous mansions of the Gilded Age, a virtual tour of the Elms mansion in Newport, Rhode Island, and a steel factory tour. There is also a section on Carnegie’s philanthropist activities, a bibliography, and a teacher’s guide (questions and themes on the Gilded Age). The site is part of PBS’s The American Experience.


Gilded Page at the College of William and Mary

This site contains documents and literary works from the Gilded Age. Included are documents from the presidents of the era and people like Carnegie and Darwin. Also included are works of literature by writers such as Twain, Melville, Alcott, Crane, and many others. This site would be very helpful in teaching an integrated unit incorporating history and literature.


The Spanish-American War

This National Park Service website provides a general introduction to the war, links to National Historic landmarks related to the war (Theodore Roosevelt’s birthplace, his Sagamore Hills home, San Juan), and links to many other sources of information on the web relating to the war. There is also a bibliography of written sources.


The World of 1898: The Spanish-American War Home Page

This site is maintained by the Library of Congress. It features a brief overview of the war, a Spanish-American War chronology, a subject index (includes people, places, and events), a bibliography, and a listing of Library of Congress resources on the war.


IX. Progressive Era (1900-1914)

The United States in the Progressive Era

This site is actually a syllabus of Progressive Era topics. There is a bibliography of sources by topic and texts of documents by people like Jane Addams, W.E.B. DuBois, Jacob Riis, Theodore Roosevelt, and many more. There are links to other Progressive Era resources on the Internet and a helpful guide to writing history term papers.


The Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk

The information presented on this website is in Orville Wright’s own words. He describes topics relating to early flight such as mechanics, physics, his preparations for the historic flight, the first attempt, the actual first flight, and the subsequent flights. Some black and white photographs of Kitty Hawk, the plane, and the Wright brothers are included. Having the information presented in Wright’s own words added to the quality of the website.


Ellis Island

This site is maintained by the Statue of Liberty/Ellis Island Foundation and would be a valuable resource for the study of America’s immigration history. The site offers a means to search the American Immigrant Wall of Honor for names of ancestors. The section introducing the features of the Ellis Island museum would be very valuable as a means of preparing students for a field trip to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. Another section provides links to sites on immigration history and sites relating to travel to New York City to visit the museum or the Statue of Liberty.


X. World War I and the Treaty of Versailles (1914-1919)

World War I - Trenches on the Web

This is a very comprehensive site. The library section contains timelines, maps (some zoomable), and biographies of key figures during the war. There are several special features on topics ranging from the causes of the war to trench warfare. There is also a collection of United States recruiting and propaganda posters and a discussion forum.


The Versailles Treaty

A complete copy of the text of the treaty is included on the website as are a bibliography, maps (before and after the war), photographs of key figures, cartoons dealing with the conference, and links to other World War I sites.


XI. The Roaring Twenties (1919-1929)

The 1920s

In the timeline section, one can click on a year and receive information on the major events of that year. The “People and Trends” section features sites on the arts, news and politics, science and humanities, business, society and fads, and sports. This website’s greatest strength is its information on a variety of different topics in the 1920s.




The first section of this website deals with why there was prohibition in the United States and includes a table giving statistics on American alcohol consumption. Also included are sections on the women’s crusade against alcohol, the Anti-Saloon League, Frances Willard, and a collection of speeches that either support or criticize prohibition. Some pictures are included, most of which are black and white.


Women’s Suffrage

This site contains the text of the 19th Amendment, information on the Seneca Falls Conference, the text of the Declaration of Sentiments, and information on Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other suffragists. There is also a bibliography and a chronology of events leading up to the 19th Amendment and also from 1920 to the present. Although this site includes information from the 1800s, the 19th Amendment was not passed until 1920 so this site is included in the 1920s category.


XII. The Great Depression and the New Deal (1929-1939)

Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum

The FDR library site is an outstanding resource for the study of Roosevelt’s presidency including the New Deal and World War II. The site is most useful for research purposes both for secondary school students and history scholars. The “Research Center” section lists the manuscript collections available at the library including a new collection of secret documents that were located in FDR’s oval office safe during his administration. The “Research Center” also offers an audiovisual archives with photos, political cartoons, lists of available audio recordings, and lists of available motion pictures. The “Education” section is designed for use by students and teachers. It offers biographies of FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt, historical fact sheets on the New Deal and World War II, information on the Roosevelt family genealogy beginning in 1756, and a list of educational programs offered by the library. There is also information about the museum’s exhibits.


Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats

This site contains the complete texts of all of Franklin Roosevelt’s “fireside chats.” There is also a Roosevelt cartoon collection. This site would be most beneficial for primary source work.


New Deal Agencies

This site is basically for quick reference. It lists every New Deal agency, giving its commonly used initials and some basic information about it. The “Acronym-o-matic” feature allows one to click on a set of initials such as NYA and get the full name of the agency (National Youth Administration) and its date of establishment.


XIII. World War II (1939-1945)

World War II

This is a very comprehensive site. The Story of World War II section has a brief overview of the war and then proceeds from Hitler’s early campaigns to the surrender of Japan including the events in between. Subsequent sections deal with specific topics such as developments in aerial warfare, naval warfare, war-time diplomacy, the postwar world, and statistics on the financial costs and human casualties of the war. There is also a very detailed chronology and a bibliography. There are biographies of key figures in addition to information on battles and equipment. Downloadable air combat films are available as are photographs from the National Archives, a World War II test, and World War II links.


War in the Pacific

The website provides information on the American Japanese tensions before the bombing of Pearl Harbor and then explores the bombing itself (including the texts of Franklin Roosevelt’s “infamy” speech and the Declaration of War). There is also information on the Japanese offensive after Pearl Harbor (Wake Island, Guam, Philippines, Dutch East Indies) and the American counter-offensive at Midway and Guadalcanal. A timeline depicts the events of the Pacific War from its start to the Japanese surrender in 1945. One can click on certain timeline events for more information (examples are Coral Sea, Okinawa, Potsdam Conference). This site provides a good overview of the Pacific War, but could use graphics.


Women in World War II

This site was produced by an Honors English class at South Kingstown High School in South Kingstown, Rhode Island. There are sections giving introductory information on the roles of women in the war. The main feature of the site is a series of student interviews of 36 Rhode Island women who were involved in the war. There is also a glossary of World War II terms, a timeline, a bibliography, and links to other World War II sites.


The Holocaust

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum maintains this site which features a detailed historical summary of the Holocaust. The summary is divided into the two main phases of the Holocaust and includes explanatory footnotes.


The Bombing of Hiroshima

Some of the site’s features include a photo gallery, a map of Japan showing where the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs were dropped, and statistics on the B-29 bomber that dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. A literature section provides bibliographical information for eyewitness accounts from survivors in addition to novels, plays, poetry, and children’s books that deal with the bombing. The fine arts section gives information on paintings, illustrations, sculptures, monuments, music, and films that deal with Hiroshima. A scientific section provides diagrams of the Atomic bomb, an archive of information on nuclear physics, and a link to the Radiation Effects Research Foundation. A section on historical research is also included. The overall website is an excellent resource for teaching about World War II and its end.


XIV. The Cold War (1945-1991)

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

This site provides a brief history of NATO, links to member countries, the text of the North Atlantic Treaty, and information on current issues such as the admission of new members. There is also information on the different organizations that make up NATO.


Korean War

The introduction section provides background information on the war and the website. The main features of the site are a book review section, an oral history section with first-hand accounts from soldiers, a map section, a thesis on the participation of African American soldiers in the war, and links to other related sites. Overall, the site has some useful information but is not very comprehensive.


Cuban Missile Crisis

This site contains basic historical information on the crisis, reasons why the Soviet Union placed missiles in Cuba, pictures, links to other Cold War sites, and a map of missile facilities in Cuba at the time.


XV. The Sixties, Civil Rights, and Vietnam (1960-1973)

Martin Luther King, Jr.

This site contains a biography of King, articles about him (this section is currently under construction), a chronology of his life, and his family history. One can search a list of 2,700 references to sources on King. There is a recommended reading section and an archive of King’s famous speeches and sermons.


Timeline of the American Civil Rights Movement

The timeline begins with the Brown vs. the Board of Education decision in 1954. One can click on each event and the site provides a photograph and brief description of the event. Most of the events also include links to primary sources relating to the specific event. This website earned the “Surfing the Net With Kids” award.


The Vietnam War

The information presented at this site is based on the materials for a course on the Vietnam War taught at Vassar College. The site features a detailed overview of the war that includes photographs, a collection of primary source documents, and a section containing numerous links to other Vietnam sites.


Vietnam War Bibliography

This is a very comprehensive list of sources arranged by topic. Some of these topics are general works, technology and weapons, American and Vietnamese personal accounts, historical background to the war, the war itself (and specific battles), air force operations, naval operations, the marines in Vietnam, special warfare units, American policies toward Vietnam, the draft, the antiwar movement, fictional accounts, documentaries, and films. In addition to the above resources, the site also includes microfilm resources, United States government publications, and links to other sites on the Internet.


XVI. The Late 1970s and the 1980s (1974-1989)


This site gives an introduction to what Watergate was and how the term is used today. There are links to biographies of Richard Nixon and his wife (from the Nixon library webpage) which include several color and black and white photographs. There are also links to the texts of some of Nixon’s famous speeches (“Checkers” speech, first inaugural address). A section on the political context of the scandal is included as is a timeline of Watergate events. Throughout the text of the timeline, one can click on key terms to receive further information. There is information on the convictions and aftermath of the scandal and there are links to other Nixon and Watergate sites.


Camp David Accords

Start by clicking on The Tour. The information begins with the background to the Accords including the establishment of Israel, a brief history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, a brief history of the American involvement in the peace process, and information on the Carter administration’s efforts. The next section deals with the preparation for the talks and includes information on President Carter’s strategy and a list of the members of the different delegations that participated in the accords. Subsequent sections deal with the talks themselves, the legacy of the Camp David Accords, and a list of references.

The Space Shuttle Challenger

This site provides detailed information on the explosion of the Challenger in 1986. There are several color photographs and technical diagrams of the shuttle and the explosion itself. Links to the various NASA sites about the disaster are included.


XVII. America in the 1990s (1990-present)

Persian Gulf War

The oral history section contains interviews with the various
leaders in the War (Richard Cheney, Gen. Colin Powell, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, James Baker), interviews with Iraqis, and interviews with analysts. The war stories section provides first-hand accounts from soldiers and pilots who participated in the war. There is also information on weapons and technology, maps, a chronology, and an appendix with facts, statistics, and readings.


U.S. Involvement in Bosnia

This site is done in a field trip format where one proceeds in sequence from one page to another. Part I deals with background information about the conflict in Bosnia. Part II provides information on several of the people involved and some of the major cities in Bosnia. Part III deals with the Dayton Accords. Maps and photographs are included in each part. There is also a section on current news relating to Bosnia and a discussion forum on whether the United States should be involved in the Bosnia situation.


John Glenn’s Return to Space

The NASA history division provides a variety of information, both scientific and historical, on former astronaut and U.S. Senator John Glenn. The site includes information the STS-95 space shuttle mission in which Glenn participated, a biography of Glenn, a section of questions answered by Sen. Glenn about his life and the recent (1998) mission, and information on the Mercury space program and Glenn’s Friendship 7 flight in 1962. A link is provided to a John Glenn page at Muskingum College, Glenn’s alma mater. This site would be very useful in comparing America in the early 1960s to America today.



General U.S. History Websites


U.S. History Indices


Yahoo! U.S. History


Yahoo! U.S. History Museums and Memorials


Yahoo! U.S. Presidential Libraries


Yahoo! U.S. First Ladies


U.S. History Index


National Historical Society HistoryNet


University of Kansas Department of History Internet Resources


Rutgers University American and British History Resources on the Internet


University of Virginia Department of History Resources


U.S. Government Websites


The White House


United States Senate


United States House of Representatives


Library of Congress


Words and Deeds in American History (Library of Congress)


National Archives


Washington, D.C.

National Park Service Links to the Past


Smithsonian National Museum of American History


Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum


NASA History Home Page


U.S. Army Center of Military History


U.S. Naval Historical Center


Miscellaneous U.S. History Websites


American Historical Association


Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents


National Baseball Hall of Fame Education Program in Social Studies


The United Nations


The History Channel


College/University History Departments


African-Americans in History


African-American Historic Documents


Columbia University Teachers College Native American History Archive


University of Texas U.S. History Maps


William P. Leeman is a senior majoring in history and secondary education at Providence College in Providence, Rhode Island. He has been accepted into the doctoral program in history at Boston University and will begin his studies there in September.


Evaluating Websites For Use In History Classes


Copyright Date or Last Update

When was the site produced?

When was it last updated?

Is the information on the website current?

Is the site maintained on a regular basis?



Are the website author’s credentials given?

What are those credentials?

Is the author an expert in the field?

Is the author a student? (high school, college, graduate school)

Does the author display any kind of bias?

Is the organization sponsoring the website reputable?

Is the organization a government or a private organization?

Is the website sponsored by a college or university?

Was the website produced in the United States or another country?


Website Design

Does the website state a purpose?

What is that purpose?

Is the website easy to use?

Does the website present facts, opinions, or both?

Does the website contain graphics (photos, drawings, artwork, diagrams)?

Are there any links to other websites? Do the links work?

Are there many errors in grammar and spelling?

Does the site list any reputable organizations that have reviewed its content?

For approximately what academic level is the website written (elementary school, middle school, high school, college)?


Your Opinion

What are the website’s strengths?

What are its weaknesses?

Would you use this website again? Why or why not?

Would you recommend this website to others?

What age level would you recommend the website for
(elementary, secondary, college)?



General Guidelines For Students Using The Internet For Historical Research

In general, the best history sources on the Internet are maintained by colleges and universities, government agencies (e.g., the Smithsonian, the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the White House, the National Park Service), historical societies or associations, and museums.

Be careful when using websites that are not maintained by a reputable source, such as the ones listed above. While there are many excellent websites maintained by private citizens, private sites are more likely to contain historical inaccuracies and to be biased.

Many websites provide an e-mail address for the person responsible for maintaining the site. If you have any questions about the information presented by the website, about the website’s sponsoring organization, or about the website’s author, use the e-mail address provided.

Always document any information you use from the Internet. The following information should be included in a citation for an Internet site: website title, website author’s (or editor’s) name, date when website was activated (or last updated), website address, date when website was used.

Example: (This is a fictitious website used only as an example.)

Smith, John. “The U.S. History Home Page.” February 2, 1998.
(May 16, 1999).

Before including information from the Internet in a term paper, essay, or presentation, make sure that its use is acceptable to your teacher.

When in doubt about the reliability or accuracy of a website, consult your teacher.

©1999 National Council for the Social Studies. All rights reserved.