Ken Burns Classroom

Roosevelt’s Progressive Politics

Ken Burns Film: The Roosevelts

Collections: Emergence of Modern America (1890-1930)

Subject: Government

Grade Level: 7-12

Run Time: 1 class period


Each Roosevelt was known for his or her progressive politics, and each was precedent-setting in their ideas and the policies they implemented. TR attacked the abuses of the Gilded Age and instilled an era of social equality and progressive politics. FDR attempted unprecedented government intervention to rescue the country from the Great Depression and then navigated the nation through World War II. Eleanor was FDR’s political partner in pushing his New Deal agenda, and then she independently advocated reforms in civil rights for African Americans and became a pioneer of women’s rights. Though they were products of their times and often made policy decisions in the name of political expediency, they were also visionaries who forever changed government and citizens’ relationship to it.


How would the Roosevelt policies fare in today’s political climate? What political party would each be closest to? As a class, have students brainstorm major policies promoted by the Roosevelts. Then divide the class into small groups and assign one of the policies to each. Have students research information on the problem the policy was to address, how it would address it, and its level of success. Then identify similar problems today and formulate a campaign poster or brochure that would promote one of the Roosevelt candidates for president in the next election. Resource:

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