Teaching Prohibition

Tuesday, November 8, 2011
7:00–8:30 p.m. (EST) Enter Classroom Enter Forum


Michael A. Lerner, Ph.D.

Principal, Bard High School Early College

About the Seminar

Prohibition bred glamour — speakeasies, flappers, the Jazz age. Prohibition bred crime — gangsters, smuggling, shoot-outs.

It also pitted country folk against city dwellers, Protestants against Catholics, the native-born against immigrants. It promoted women’s liberation, stoked racial fears, made drinking alcohol an act of treason, and turned America into a nation of informers, all this while raising fundamental questions about the role of government in the lives of Americans and challenging definitions of American identity.

Learn how to combine Ken Burns’ series Prohibition with primary sources to teach this rich and exciting period.


Funding is provided by Bank of America; Public Broadcasting Service; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; The National Endowment for the Humanities; The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations; the Montrone Family through The Penates Foundation; and Park Foundation, Inc.

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Assigned Readings

  1. Diary in America, by Frederick Marryat (excerpt)
  2. How the Other Half Lives, by Jacob Riis (excerpt)
  3. Jewish Quarter Saloons,” map
  4. Make the Map All White,” advertisement
  5. Pay Envelope,” advertisement
  6. War Prohibition Flyer
  7. A Glimpse behind the Mask of Prohibition,” by Percy Andreae
  8. Hops Telegrams (2)
  9. What Prohibition Has Done to America, by Fabian Franklin (excerpt)
  10. The Amendments
  11. Deaths due to Alcohol,” chart, Cook County
  12. National Survey of Conditions Under Prohibition
  13. Speakeasy Nights 1, The New Yorker, 1927
  14. Speakeasy Nights 2, The New Yorker, 1928
  15. Calls Nightclubs Rendezvous of Vice,” New York Times, 1927
  16. Photos of two bar scenes
  17. Enright on How to Enforce Prohibition,” New York Times, 1924
  18. Mr. Buckner Explains,” by Morris Markey, The New Yorker
  19. Fiorella H. LaGuardia’s testimony before the U.S. Senate, 1926
  20. Student Testimony Against Prohibition
  21. Dr. Norris Assails Dry Law Fatalities,” New York Times, 1928
  22. The Federal Council of Churches, Testimony before the U.S. Senate
  23. When is a Law Right?Wall Street Journal, 1929
  24. Women Anti-Drys Launch New Drive,” New York Times, 1927
  25. Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform,” poster
  26. The Repeal, President Roosevelt

Seminar Recording