In late winter 2018, I walked into the Facing History and Ourselves offices to interview for a new job. Immediately, I stopped in my tracks as I saw a framed cover of Facing History's publication Crimes Against Humanity and Civilization: The Genocide of the Armenians. The cover depicts a painting by Arshile Gorky of the artist and his mother from a photograph taken in 1912 near the city of Van, in what was then the Ottoman Empire. Three years later during the Genocide, they would flee their homeland. Gorky’s mother would never recover, dying in his arms in 1919.
Genocide Awareness Month each April is an annual period of remembrance that sheds light on the extremes of human behavior, surfacing the evil, altruism and resilience of which human beings are capable. As we sit with the strong emotions that this reflection elicits, there is also a rich opportunity to think critically about the specific historical and contemporary conditions under which genocide has occurred. Below are 10 classroom resources that educators can use to unite heart and head in their instruction on genocides past and present:
Teaching about genocide is challenging for a number of reasons. Each instance of genocide is unique to the historical, cultural, and political contexts in which it emerges, demanding sustained intellectual engagement. Simultaneously, however, educators teaching about genocide are also called to engage themselves—and their students—in a level of emotional engagement and ethical reflection not required by most other topics of instruction. Below are 6 virtual tours, exhibitions, and professional development opportunities that educators can use to navigate these challenges with greater support:
Genocide Awareness Month every April is an important time to draw our attention to the victims of genocides that are ongoing in the contemporary world, that may yet happen, and that have already taken place, leaving an indelible mark on individuals, communities, and nations. However, Genocide Awareness Month is also an opportunity to recover and amplify the stories of people who, despite being targeted by perpetrators, have refused to be victims and resisted against all odds.
A global pandemic, economic crises, protests for racial justice, wildfires and hurricanes forcing people to flee their homes and businesses, and an impending election in the US. These are just some of the events taking place right now. And, in the midst of this, a violent conflict is taking place between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh. It is a humanitarian crisis. We know from history that mass violence does not take place when it is convenient, in peace, when we are prepared to act. It often happens when the world is distracted, when we are busy and exhausted.
Topics: Armenian Genocide
Today is Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day—an annual, international observance of the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire between the years of 1915 and 1923. Despite the denialist rhetoric and political coercion of leaders in Turkey, nations around the world are beginning to tell the truth about the genocide perpetrated against Armenians, and witness the Armenian community’s immense resilience and humanity. After decades of political gridlock came to an end last December, the United States joined twenty-eight countries in formally recognizing the genocide. But there’s much more that must be done to honor this history of genocide and, this year, Armenians are leading the way through an unprecedented campaign.
During Genocide Awareness Month this April, we would like to draw educators' and parents' attention to Facing History’s rich array of teaching resources on genocide. But we also invite you to deepen your own learning with these 7 brand new titles written by scholars and memoirists grappling with the nature of genocide, its impacts on people around the world, and the acts of resistance and humanity that persist amid horrific circumstances. These books range in format from survivor testimony and multigenerational biography, to accounts of historical upstanders and scholarly analysis of how we represent and teach about genocide itself.
For the month of April, a large banner draped over the Bay Bridge draws the attention of 250,000 drivers to the Armenian Genocide each day. On my commute to work, I asked two passengers in my rideshare if they knew about the Armenian Genocide. Aside from stating that a genocide happened in 1915, neither could tell me what happened, who the Armenians were, or where Armenia is located.
Today's social networks, news websites, and viral videos compete for our attention, inundating us with information. Sometimes they urge us to take action against the plight of others: the Syrian refugee crisis, the mass violence in Myanmar. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed, perhaps as though our small efforts won’t make a difference. Or perhaps we wonder why we should care about an issue so far away. For Americans during the early 20th century, the Armenian Genocide, which began today in 1915, resonated deeply, prompting the largest mass media campaign of its time to save thousands. With the luxury of instant connectivity today, their efforts can remind us just how far-reaching we can be when humanity depends on it.
Topics: Armenian Genocide
Images are an important entry to stories of genocides and mass violence. They provide evidence and context but they can also shock us, jolting us into the immense amount of human suffering that occurred. This is why we must be careful when we prepare lessons for students that touch on such graphic and often difficult-to-absorb topics.