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:
Widely considered the event that inaugurated the modern gay rights movement, this Friday, June 28th marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.
Stonewall was the culmination of a number of efforts that had been bubbling just beyond public perception for decades and finally burst into view when a group of LGBTQ people facing ongoing police brutality and economic exploitation fought back at New York City’s Stonewall Inn.
Up until late last May, the bronze statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, was featured prominently in the center of Lee Circle in New Orleans, Louisiana. Now, the nearly 60-foot column it rested upon is bare and empty after the city removed the last of its Confederate era monuments. Sparked by Mayor Mitch Landrieu after the 2015 massacre of nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, the effort to remove these monuments has ignited emotionally charged responses and debates all across the country: Are we erasing the past by removing them? Or are we upholding legacies of racism and discrimination by keeping them?
In February 1968, Thomas “T.O.” Jones led 1,300 black sanitation workers in a citywide strike against Memphis’ abusive treatment of its black employees. Facing History is honoring Jones and 13 other Memphians who chose to confront injustice and defy indifference through our Upstanders Mural. This commnity-driven public art display is located across the street from the National Civil Rights Museum and steps away from where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated.
We spoke with Dory Lerner, Museum Educator at the National Civil Rights Museum and a Facing History volunteer, about the importance of the mural in the community and how the stories of these Upstanders can be blueprints for changemakers today.
How is a little known lynching case from 1917 relevant today?
For students at Overton High School in Memphis, Tennessee, discovering the case of Ell Persons became a call to action. Angered by the brutality of his murder and the high number of lynchings that took place in their own backyard, they decided to channel their energy into something positive. They have been hard at work to create a memorial for Persons and to bring light to an often forgotten part of U.S. history so that others, too, will learn from the past.
I have been a teacher and assistant principal at Stuyvesant High School for 14 years.
Our school is located in lower Manhattan, just a few blocks north of the World Trade Center. We are one of New York City’s specialized high schools and draw students from all five boroughs. We have over 3,000 students in our 10-story building.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, my express bus dropped me at the Center's North Tower and I walked up a few blocks to school. I settled in for a busy day in the first week of classes.
It's Oscar night! While you're waiting to see who will win and lose on the red carpet, check out these five Oscar-winning films available for educators in the Facing History Network to borrow from our lending library.