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Interpreting the Evidence

Investigating Subversives

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Contemporary United States (1965 - present)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Civil Rights

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Western New York
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Centerfold from the Publication Cold Steel Encouraging High School Students to Unite in Main Image Viewer
  2. Load Centerfold from the Publication Cold Steel Encouraging High School Students to Unite in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Historical Background

The New York State Police actively spied on students and other non-violent protesters through informants and the collection of social movement publications. These primary sources tell the story of anti-war protesters and other activists during this turbulent time in American history.

These documents can be paired with the article Investigating Subversives from the Winter 2022 issue of New York Archives magazine. Investigating Subversives sheds light on the New York State Non-Criminal Investigation Case Files from the 1960s and 1970s. Seth Kershner details the activities of various government agencies and provides readers with an overview of the types of valuable primary sources that can be found in this collection.

Setting the Stage


Show this video from to begin a discussion about student protests.

Connections to the NYS Social Studies Framework

8.9 DOMESTIC POLITICS AND REFORM: The civil rights movement and the Great Society were attempts by people and the government to address major social, legal, economic, and environmental problems. Subsequent economic recession called for a new economic program. (Standards: 1, 4, 5; Themes: TCC, SOC, CIV, ECO)

11.10 SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CHANGE/DOMESTIC ISSUES (1945 – present): Racial, gender, and socioeconomic inequalities were addressed by individuals, groups, and organizations. Varying political philosophies prompted debates over the role of the federal government in regulating the economy and providing a social safety net. (Standards: 1, 4, 5; Themes: ID, TCC, SOC, GOV, CIV, ECO)