“Let me give you a word on the philosophy of reform. The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims, have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle there is no progress. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to — and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
—Frederick Douglass, “The Significance of Emancipation in the West Indies”
(August 3, 1857)
Voices of a People’s History of the United States seeks to bring to light little known voices from U.S. history, including those of women, African Americans, Native Americans, immigrants, and laborers. By giving public expression to rebels, dissenters, and visionaries from our past — and present — we work to educate and inspire a new generation of people working for social justice.
The goal of Voices of a People’s History of the United States is to encourage civic engagement and to further history education by bringing the rich history of the United States to life through public readings of primary-source materials.
Voices works to remind people of the eloquence of ordinary people, as well as extraordinary and well-known figures from our history. By involving well-known actors and public figures in readings, Voices also works to inspire audiences to delve more deeply into historical texts and also to see history as a lively, relevant, and contemporary subject, not just a matter of books sitting on the library shelf.
But rather than rely on professional actors alone, Voices also arranges for readings combining professional actors with students and readings also entirely of students to engage at all levels of the dramatic and educational process, from selecting texts, to interpreting them, to adding new voices to the performances.
We also work with teachers and educators in all walks of life to develop resources for the teaching and exploration of history from below. And we work with theaters, actors, and artists interested in history.
In doing all of this, Voices works to develop and informed and participatory citizenry.
To see a list of the performers who have taken part in Voices in the past, please click here.
Special thanks to Jared Rodriguez for the photograph of Camilo Mejía we feature on this site.
“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
- Frederick Douglass