As an educator who has taught the Facing History Reconstruction unit several times, one thing has become clear: who we are and where we are shapes the way we teach our students about this critical period in history. I’ve heard my fellow educators grapple with some of the same questions I’ve considered. How do we approach the topic of race and racism? How can we talk about African American history with a predominantly white student body versus a predominantly African American one? Or, how can we talk about the legacy of slavery with a predominantly urban or rural student body?
In 2015 Facing History and Ourselves celebrated ten incredible years of Community Conversations, marking the decade with its first ever event in Boston.
Thanks to The Allstate Foundation’s sponsorship of Community Conversations, Facing History has been able to engage communities in difficult discussions around bigotry and hatred; work we’ve honed for nearly 40 years in classrooms around the globe. These free events spark respectful dialogue about pressing social issues and engage people from all different backgrounds to address racism, prejudice, and antisemitism. And in today’s world the need for unifying, understanding, and healing has never been greater.
The foundation of a good story is a cast of characters that shape our thoughts about the world. That’s certainly the case for Scout Finch in Harper Lee’s beloved novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. As a young white girl, she is forced to question her community’s spoken and unspoken rules when her father defends a black man falsely accused of a crime in 1930s Alabama. She and her brother, Jem, struggle to define their identities in relationship to the values of their small, segregated Southern town.
When I was in elementary school, I was chosen to read aloud a poem I wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr. It was during a school-wide assembly to celebrate the United States’ Black History Month. I remember reciting my poem and the celebratory feeling in the room. The sense that we were united by the legacy of this wonderful man and our enlightened accomplishments as a racially diverse school community. Even then I understood that my presence onstage was meant to be evidence of that enlightenment and progress.
Today - International Holocaust Remembrance Day - marks the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the concentration camp that became the unofficial symbol of World War II. Yet, beyond the sobering images that typically come to mind, there is a complexity to understanding the choices people made that led to such death and destruction.
For the past three years, Dr. Sybil Hampton has been featured as a guest speaker for Facing History and Ourselves’ online course, “Choices in Little Rock.” Her experience as one of the first African American students to graduate from Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1962 makes her a witness to history. She shares her reflections on why she chooses to participate in Facing History’s online professional development courses.
Register today! Our online courses start on February 4.
Ebony Davis, a Facing History Teacher Leader and Facing History Leadership Academy member from Miami, Florida is highlighted on the Teacher Practice Network as part of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd. She reflects on how Facing History has helped her grow as an educator:
Next week we will take the time to celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His message of calling people from all walks of life to work together in support of the common good is just as pertinent now as it was then. As we prepare to talk to our students about what Dr. King stood for, here are some digital tools to bring his words and ideas to life in your classroom. This round up will enhance your students’ ability to study his role in the Civil Rights Movement while inspiring them to participate as upstanders in their own communities.
In January and February, Barnes & Noble Booksellers is partnering with Facing History and Ourselves to promote our resources for teaching To Kill A Mockingbird to educators across the United States. Facing History’s Senior Program Associate, Laura Tavares, reflects on why Mockingbird is more relevant today than at any time since it’s original publication at the dawn of the American Civil Rights Era.
Six months ago, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman revealed a different side of the beloved Atticus Finch. Lovers of Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, were left confused as he is rendered a segregationist who clashes with his daughter over his racist beliefs. My colleagues and I saw this as an opportunity to explore Mockingbird even further. Since the book’s release, we immersed ourselves in this text to develop resources that can inform the way you read and teach Mockingbird in your classroom.
Winter is a great time to slow down, indulge in eating hearty food and curl up with a book that can transport you to another world, all from the comfort of your couch. So go on an adventure this winter. Hit the library, stop by the independent bookstore on the corner, toss a few items in your AmazonSmile shopping cart (when you do, a portion of your purchase can go directly to Facing History), or start downloading to your e-reader. Hand-picked by Tracy O'Brien, Director of Facing History and Ourselves’ library, these titles are guaranteed to transport, challenge, and inspire readers of all ages.