Each December, we observe Universal Human Rights Month—an opportunity to reflect upon historical and ongoing struggles for human rights around the globe. Yet understandings of human rights are constantly evolving, raising new questions, and calling into question aspects of social life that some of us take for granted. In the following five books published within the last year, scholars, a biographer, and a memoirist reflect upon different dimensions of human rights, offering educators a number of areas for further exploration of this important subject. Below, the publisher of each title outlines what is to be found within each book:
During Universal Human Rights Month this December, educators have an opportunity to engage their students in focused exploration of the assaults on human dignity that abound in our own national contexts and around the globe. Yet educators also have an opportunity to highlight some of the parallel efforts to protect human lives and dignity that arise in the face of violence and injustice.
Topics: Human Rights
In a recent interview, I spoke with Dr. Jeffrey Jackson—Professor of History at Rhodes College and author of Paper Bullets: Two Artists Who Risked Their Lives to Defy the Nazis. In this interview. Dr. Jackson discusses the untold story of Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe, a French lesbian couple who intervened in the Nazi occupation of the Channel Islands through an expansive artistic campaign during World War II. Better known to art historians by their adopted names of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, Schwob and Malherbe’s story of resistance is told for the first time in Dr. Jackson’s new book. Here he shares a first look at their incredible story with Facing History.
Photo Caption: Cree students at their desks with their teacher in a classroom, All Saints Indian Residential School, Lac La Ronge, Saskatchewan, March 1945 (Credit: Bud Glunz / National Film Board of Canada. Photothèque / PA-134110).
For many Americans, the popular story of the first Thanksgiving often goes like this: in 1621, the Pilgrims had recently arrived in what is today Plymouth, Massachusetts—the traditional lands of the Wampanoag and Massachusett people—and were faced with a cold and bitter winter. The Wampanoag people noticed their plight and generously provided the Pilgrims with the means to survive. To provide thanks, the Pilgrims welcomed the Wampanoags to a harmonious feast. This narrative is shared in classrooms across America every year, has persisted in public memory, and is deeply embedded in the national identity of the United States. However, like many exceptionalist narratives in American history, this story is a one-sided understanding that glorifies colonization and ignores the full truth of history, particularly for the Indigenous People of the United States.
This month, in addition to being National Native American Heritage Month, marks 400 years since the Mayflower landed in Plymouth. Here in Massachusetts—a state named after the indigenous people of the “Great Blue Hill”—many of us are settlers on stolen land. I spoke with Cheryl Andrews-Maltais, Chairwoman of the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head Aquinnah based on Martha’s Vineyard, to hear her perspective on this moment, and what we can learn from reflecting on the anniversary.
“We are responsible for our own ignorance or, with time and openhearted enlightenment, our own wisdom.” —Isabel Wilkerson, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents
“Our culture has an odd relationship with race: it structures every aspect of American social life, but in ways that can often seem invisible and undetected. Like an electrical current running through water, race has a way of filling space even as it remains invisible.”
—Dr. Eve L. Ewing, Ghosts in the Schoolyard
Since 1990, November has been National Native American Heritage Month in the United States—an opportunity to attend more deliberately to the histories, experiences, contributions, and ideas of Native American peoples. Though these experiences and archives ought to be top of mind throughout the year, the stakes this month may be even higher than usual. In this moment of national reckoning over the past and future of America, questions surrounding how we conceive of our national origins, who is included, and where we are headed are revealing profound divides. But there is a great deal of knowledge and insight that can be gained from the voices of those whose histories, ideas, and experiences are routinely pushed to the periphery.
This past September, I had the privilege to speak with Dr. Dena Simmons during a Facing History webinar about how social-emotional learning can help us realize an anti-racist future. It was on the day that the grand jury in Louisville, KY made the decision not to charge anyone for the murder of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old unarmed African-American woman fatally shot in her apartment. Both Dr. Simmons and I felt the heaviness of this verdict, and the need to have an honest conversation about the times we are living in as Black women educators. Dr. Simmons has since written an article for ASCD in which she notes that Black women educators always “show up...because we know our work is critical to Black youth in white-dominated school systems...even if it comes at a cost. But we are exhausted.”