What have our communities and nation chosen to memorialize and why? These are among the questions that Americans are grappling with in the midst of massive social upheaval and a growing list of instances in which protesters are removing or defacing monuments celebrating historical figures—monuments they feel celebrate racist legacies and signal an ongoing commitment to upholding racism. This wave of direct action has also spread to countries like England and Belgium as their populations reckon with the legacies of racism and colonialism in their own corners of the globe. Facing History invites educators to explore the following lessons on the contested meaning of monuments and historical symbols, as well as how new monuments and symbols have the potential to ground us in narratives that aid repair:
Each year for Independence Day, students of history read and reflect upon Frederick Douglass’ landmark speech “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July.” In recent years, scholars have begun to reexamine the life and legacy of this famous abolitionist and orator. Guest writer Thomas Simpson offers a review of historian David Blight's Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom. Thomas holds a master's degree in History from Georgetown University and is a core member of Facing History's Marketing and Communications team.
In collaboration with Facing History UK, educator Sanum Khan recently interviewed 18-year-old Kam Lambert about his experiences of growing up as a mixed-race young man in Britain, and how the events of recent months have impacted him. His insights and experiences send several powerful messages to us all within and beyond Britain. Facing History UK is an entity of Facing History and Ourselves, and Sanum Khan is a Facing History teacher and Specialist Leader of Education for Religious Studies and Personal, Social and Health Education in Buckinghamshire.
In a recent interview, I spoke with educator Emily Haines—teacher and literacy coach at the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology in the South Bronx. A founding teacher at the Facing History School in Manhattan, Haines discusses her experience being an out lesbian, white, middle-class teacher over her 22-year career, as well as approaches she recommends to LGBTQ educators she coaches and how she deploys intersectional thinking to support members of her school community.
As the George Floyd protests continue in cities around the country, debate continues to mount about the future of policing. A wide network of activist groups have been calling for the nation’s police departments to be defunded, insisting that attempts at incremental reform have failed and alternative approaches to public safety must be implemented. Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, a coalition of House Democrats is advocating an alternative approach, asserting that we can reduce wrongful fatalities within existing systems of policing. As debate continues to rage, these efforts are provoking hard questions about the best possible outcomes of police reforms and whether they would be enough to protect black lives, if achieved.
Described as a second independence day, June 19th or Juneteenth marks the day that emancipation reached slaves in the furthest reaches of the South. While the Emancipation Proclamation proclaimed that all slaves held within the rebellious states were freed, plantation life continued as though no change had occurred in many parts of the slaveholding South until this day. Juneteenth is a time to reflect upon this history, including the steps toward freedom that have been achieved and the forces that continue to undermine the freedom of African Americans. Juneteenth entered public consciousness recently when it was announced that the Trump campaign would hold a rally on that date in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of what is considered the worst race massacre in American history—one in which white mobs murdered over 300 African Americans. These plans were amended after provoking a wave of criticism about the insensitivity and even threat contained in such a decision in these times of ongoing unrest. These events provoke a number of questions but one thing is certain: finding the gumption to face our history, connect it to current events, and take action is perhaps more crucial now than ever before.
Eric Marcus, host of the acclaimed Making Gay History podcast and author of Making Gay History, spoke with Facing History in a recent webinar about teaching students with LGBTQIA+ histories and experiences in mind. Marcus’ critically acclaimed podcast is based on a wealth of exclusive interviews he conducted with LGBTQIA+ people beginning in the 1980s. Here we highlight some of Marcus’ most essential insights about the importance of teaching and learning LGBTQIA+ history, as well as the impact on students with those identities.
Marti Tippens Murphy, Executive Director of Facing History and Ourselves Memphis, recently reflected upon the nature of upstanding and what it demands of us in these times in The Daily Memphian.
Below is an excerpt from her piece:
As Pride Month begins this June, Americans are met with a more limited set of options for gathering in groups to celebrate, resist, and learn. As Pride marches are canceled and reimagined in this moment of social distancing, we also have an opportunity to dive into the richness of LGBTQIA+ history and life through a wealth of books written by LGBTQIA+ people and allies. For educators and others eager to deepen their own learning on these subjects, the following 6 titles released this year provide new perspectives on this community’s history, its unsung heroes, the history of gender-neutral pronouns, and the intersection of sexuality and gender identity with other dimensions of identity.
June is Pride Month in the United States—a time to honor our nation’s diversity in terms of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as the array of experiences, struggles, and visions that LGBTQIA+ people bring to the world. Originally instituted to honor the Stonewall Riots of 1969, Pride Month has grown to encompass a vast and rich array of events that reflect the diversity of the community itself. And yet, this Pride Month is different from any other in recent memory. Even as social distancing disrupts the typical array of in-person gatherings, marches, and celebrations, LGBTQIA+ people and allies are still finding many ways to connect, learn, reflect, and resist.
Stay tuned over the coming weeks for these new offerings on the histories, experiences, and brilliance of LGBTQIA+ people: