The Zinn Education Project posted all the lessons from The Power in Our Hands: A Curriculum on the History of Work and Workers in the United States, by Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond, published in 1988 by Monthly Review Press. The lessons are available as free downloads here.
This comprehensive labor history curriculum is filled with role plays, simulations, imaginative writing activities, poetry, first-person readings, and more.
In the spirit of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, the lessons in The Power in Our Hands encourage students—through their own active participation—to recognize the struggles of ordinary workers to achieve justice at work and beyond.
Lessons in the book feature Bertolt Brecht’s poem “A Worker Reads History” and Charlie Chaplin’s classic film Modern Times to cover broad labor themes. “The Organic Goodie Simulation” offers a hands-on look at class power and worker organizing. Other lessons explore the dynamics of “scientific management” through students making paper airplanes and redesigning a fast-food restaurant.
To reflect on ways to overcome racial and gender divisions and examine the possibilities for collective action by groups historically considered unorganizable, students role play important labor struggles, like the Homestead Steel Strike, the 1912 Lawrence, Massachusetts “Bread and Roses” Strike, and the 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike, and get inside the challenge of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union.
is a way of getting American teenagers not just interested, but excited and passionate about their history—modern American labor history.
The Zinn Education Project is able to make this resource available through the generosity of individual donors as well as Monthly Review Press.
The Power In Our Hands—Table of Contents
Unit I: Basic Understandings
Unit II: Changes in the Workplace/”Scientific Management”
- Paper Airplane Simulation
- Free to Think, Talk, Listen, or Sing
- Modern Times
- “Taylorizing” Burgers: A Fantasy
Unit III: Defeats, Victories, Challenges
Unit IV: Our Own Recent Past
- It’s a Mystery—White Workers Against Black Workers
- Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union: Black and White Unite?
- 1934 West Coast Longshore Strike
- Union Maids