On May 21, 1917 thousands of people gathered in Memphis to watch the brutal lynching of Ell Persons. One hundred years later, this past Sunday, the student-led activist group, Students Uniting Memphis (SUM), gathered with 500 community members from all backgrounds to commemorate his life and bring awareness to the injustices that occur when we divide people into “us” vs. “them.”
Topics: Race and Membership
Today’s News, Tomorrow’s History is an ongoing series with Listenwise. This series connects Facing History’s themes with today’s current events using public radio to guide and facilitate discussions around the social issues of our time. We will take a look at the ways countries have tried to manage racism, especially in Brazil.
An immigrant from West Africa, Alhassan Susso came from a long lineage of storytellers known as griots. He recently published his first memoir, The Light of Darkness - The Story of the Griots' Son, which traces his journey to America as a nearly blind teenager and the balance of becoming American while maintaining his deep African roots. On Facing Today, he shares how his own cultural perceptions - and the perceptions others had of him - helped him create a classroom of compassion, understanding, and tolerance as an American History Teacher.
In Emily Berman’s ninth grade biology class, social justice is a central theme. She’s part of a group of six teachers that brought an interdisciplinary approach to teaching Facing History’s “Race and Membership” unit last year at Blackstone Academy Charter School in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
One hundred and fifty years ago, two massacres in 1866 – one in Memphis and one in New Orleans – galvanized national opposition to the Reconstruction policies that President Andrew Johnson enacted. These policies offered almost no protection to newly freed slaves in the aftermath of the Civil War.
How can confronting challenging historical moments like these become a step toward truth and reconciliation around issues of race that we face today? First, we need to understand the history behind them.
Talking about race can be challenging and uncomfortable. Yet, recognizing the impact of race on the way we see ourselves and others can help us better understand how we see the world and, in turn, the choices that we make. The challenge, for many of us, is that we don’t know where to begin.
The roots of violence and injustice are complex and mired in societal and political specifics around the globe.
Facing History and Ourselves teaches that rigorous study of history can help us make choices for a better future. Each history has its own lessons, but all of them give us a platform from which to ask fundamental questions, in communities and in schools: how did identity impact the choices people made in the past? How do we, today, engage with each other across difference?
In an interview with Facing History and Ourselves, Sociologist Claude Steele explained that “stereotypes are one way in which history affects present life.” Stereotypes about race are among the most common. The challenge many of us face is that there are few opportunities to talk about the impact of stereotypes, where they come from, and how to break them down. Schools can provide opportunities for these important discussions, yet teachers too often lack both resources and professional development to help them navigate what can be difficult terrain.
When my daughter was a baby, we would walk through the basketball court near our apartment building on the way home from the playground. Quite often, we would find a group of young boys shooting hoops. Usually, though not always, the boys were black.
Whether you’re on the beach or preparing your syllabus for fall, check out these nonfiction and fiction titles that have the Facing History and Ourselves Library staff excited for summer reading!