January 25, 2012 - January 25, 2014
How do you turn a history lesson into a sold-out event? Hire Matt Damon to appear. On Tuesday 31 at Metro, the Oscar winner headlines “The People Speak, Live!” Jason Bourne seems like an ironic choice given that the benefit aims to demonstrate that “everyday people” can be history makers. It showcases the words of the nation’s lesser-known movers: a fugitive slave’s letter to a former master, Chicago labor organizers’ protests, civil-rights activists’ testimony.
Voices of a People’s History is also doing far less glitzy—yet more extraordinary—work in the city. During the 2011–12 school year, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit is running Chicago Voices, a pilot project to give 1,000 interested public-school educators a free curriculum toolkit. The tote bag is full of teachable goodies, including primary-source Chicago history readings; the books A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States by the org’s father figure, historian Howard Zinn; and The People Speak DVD, coproduced by Damon and based on Zinn’s books.
An Englewood High School teacher has been using the materials to organize a “People Speak” student performance in the spring. If the response among Chicago teachers is positive, Voices will plant the model in other cities.
“We think Chicago is the perfect place for Voices. The city has such a rich history of social movements and popular dissent, from the Haymarket martyrs to modern-day immigrants’-rights activists,” says Voices of a People’s History executive director Brenda Coughlin. “Teachers often tell us that primary-source materials, the actual words and text of historical figures, are ideally suited for making history real to students. I hope that students will see in using our materials that history isn’t just in textbooks, it’s alive in front of you. And, moreover, that students themselves can make history.”
Educators can sign up for a free Chicago Voices Educators Toolkit at peopleshistory.us/chicago.
Activism, Arts + Culture, Chicago, Educational, Historical, Political
January 25, 2012