Teach the Black Freedom Struggle Online Classes

This is such a wonderful series — content-wise and soul-feeding.

This is one of the best professional developments I have ever been to, hands-down. I am so grateful. This series is giving me hope in this difficult time.

Phenomenal series so far. Even more important during our current situation, as people are engaged and able to see each other. I’ve been here every Friday and look forward to these talks.

These comments are from three of the hundreds of teachers and students who attended have attended our online classes with people’s historians. These classes offer the chance to learn directly from leading historians and to meet peers from across the country.

The classes are held at least once a month on Mondays at 4:00 pm PT / 7:00 pm ET for 90 minutes. In each session, the historian is interviewed by a teacher and breakout rooms allow participants (in small groups) to meet each other, discuss the content, and share teaching ideas. We designed the sessions for teachers and other school staff, however, parents, students, and others are welcome to participate. ASL is provided.

Below are the upcoming sessions and more are in the works. Register for one or more of the upcoming sessions here. Miss a session? Recordings from previous sessions are available through each session’s dedicated resource post, which you can access by clicking on its title.

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Upcoming Sessions


April 26, 2021: The Carceral State

Historian Garrett Felber and abolitionist organizer Stevie Wilson will talk about the growth of the carceral state and resistance movements.

Felber, author of Those Who Know Don’t Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement and the Carceral State, is project director of the Parchman Oral History Project and was the lead organizer of the Making and Unmaking Mass Incarceration conference. He co-founded Study and Struggle, a project that organizes against criminalization and incarceration in Mississippi through mutual aid, political education, and community building. They provide a bilingual Spanish and English curriculum with discussion questions and reading materials, as well as financial support, to over 100 participants in radical study groups inside and outside prisons in Mississippi. Learn more.


May 10, 2021: How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

Clint Smith is a poet, staff writer at The Atlantic, and teaches writing and literature in the D.C. Central Detention Facility. Smith, in conversation with Cierra Kaler-Jones, will talk about his new book, How the Word Is Passed, an examination of how monuments and landmarks represent — and misrepresent — the central role of slavery in U.S. history and its legacy today.

The Zinn Education Project is developing lessons to bring this essential book to the classroom.

Past Sessions


We launched the series when school buildings closed in March of 2020, in collaboration with author Jeanne Theoharis. Every Friday afternoon, we hosted an historian in conversation with a teacher or teacher educator. High school teacher and Rethinking Schools editor Jesse Hagopian has served as the primary host, with guest hosting by Tiffany Mitchell Patterson, Jessica Rucker, Cierra Kaler-Jones, and Adam Sanchez.

Fridays became a time to look forward to learning through stories about people’s history, to meeting other educators, and to finding a road map forward in the midst of this pandemic. As one participant said, “Thank you for getting us together and giving me hope that we are not alone, and that we can think and act ourselves out of this pandemic.”’

Beginning in the fall of 2020, we switched to offering the sessions at least once a month, on Monday evenings.

Each link below includes highlights from the session, a list of the resources recommended by the presenters and participants, participant reflections, and a full video recording.

March 22, 2021: The Atlanta Washerwomen’s Strike

This interactive online class featured a conversation between Jeanne Theoharis, scholar and co-founder of the series, and Tera W. Hunter, history professor at Princeton University and author of To ‘Joy My Freedom: Southern Black Women’s Lives and Labors After the Civil War.

Hunter began with the story of the 1881 Atlanta Washerwomen’s Strike and went on to share many more stories of organizing by Black women for labor rights, public health, voting rights, and the right to joyful endeavors (such as dancing) from the Reconstruction era through today.


March 8, 2021: A Black Women’s History of the United States

Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross will share stories from their book, A Black Women’s History of the United States. Daina Ramey Berry is a history professor at the University of Texas at Austin and Kali Nicole Gross is a history professor at Rutgers University, New Brunswick.

By starting the history about Black women on this land with us as free people and as people agitating for our freedom, by prioritizing all Black women’s voices and coming up to the present day, Dr. Gross and Dr. Berry illuminate greater possibilities for our collective freedom dreams and struggles for collective liberation. — Charlene A. Carruthers


Feb. 15, 2021: Julian Bond and the Southern Civil Rights Movement: Focus on Georgia

To learn about the long history of the voting rights struggle leading to the electoral victory in Georgia, we were joined by SNCC veteran Judy Richardson and the co-editors of Julian Bond’s Time to Teach: A History of the Southern Civil Rights Movement, Jeanne Theoharis and Pamela Horowitz.

Time to Teach is a compilation of lectures by SNCC veteran and university professor Julian Bond (1940 – 2015). Bond had his own voting rights struggle in Georgia when the State House of Representatives refused to seat him as a state representative, due to his public statements against the Vietnam War.


Jan. 11, 2021: The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks | Jeanne Theoharis, in conversation with Jesse Hagopian, spoke about Rosa Parks’ activism prior to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, her trip to the Highlander Folk School, and the decades she dedicated to challenging racism in the North. This session is based on the young readers edition The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks by Jeanne Theoharis and Brandy Colbert, to be released in February 2021. There is a companion classroom lesson for this session by Bill Bigelow.


Dec. 14, 2020: Reconstruction: Repression and Resistance | Kidada E. Williams, in conversation with Tiffany Mitchell Patterson, discussed the history of repression and resistance during Reconstruction with contemporary connections. Williams is a Detroit-based writer and historian who studies African American survivors of racist violence. Williams is an associate professor at Wayne State University. She is the author of They Left Great Marks on Me and co-editor of Charleston Syllabus: Readings on Race, Racism, and Racial Violence. Her podcast, Seizing Freedom, will be released in early 2021.


Nov. 16, 2020: Paul Robeson, Political Outlaw: Lessons for Today from the Black Radical Tradition | Greg Carr, in conversation with Jesse Hagopian, talked about Paul Robeson and the Black radical tradition. Carr is an associate professor of Africana Studies, chair of the Department of Afro-American Studies at Howard University, and Adjunct Faculty at the Howard School of Law. Carr is co-founder of the Philadelphia Freedom Schools Movement and an advisor for the Zinn Education Project’s Teach Reconstruction campaign. See Carr’s two-minute history lessons on key figures and events in U.S. history.


Oct. 19, 2020: Organizing for Voting Rights: Lessons from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) | Charles M. Payne, the Henry Rutgers Distinguished Professor of African American Studies at Rutgers University Newark and the Director of the Joseph Cornwall Center for Metropolitan Research joined us to discuss voter suppression and white terrorism in the mid-20th century, in a conversation led by Cierra Kaler-Jones. Read highlights and stream the recording.


July 10, 2020: Abolitionists and Reconstruction Manisha Sinha joined high school teacher Adam Sanchez to talk about the abolition movement and Reconstruction. Sinha explained that the abolition movement should not be taught as a collection of individuals, but instead as a radical social movement, with connections to the Movement for Black Lives today.


June 26, 2020: A History of Rebellions Jeanne Theoharis and Jesse Hagopian discussed various rebellions in U.S. history — including what they have in common and how they differ from current events. Theoharis encouraged educators to consider “the many tendrils” that led to this current movement and others before it.


June 19, 2020: Reconstruction and Juneteenth Greg Carr and high school teacher Jessica Rucker talked about how Juneteenth is one of many days where African Americans celebrate being “freed” but still not “free” and how the times we are in today could be considered a third Reconstruction or a second Founding.


June 12, 2020: Reconstruction and Issues of Citizenship, Suffrage, and Movement Building in the 19th Century Martha Jones, in conversation with Tiffany Mitchell Patterson, addressed the themes of our campaigns to Teach Reconstruction and to teach about voting rights. She highlighted the vital and too often ignored role of Black women in the fight for voting rights.


June 5, 2020: Examining the Historical Roots of the 2020 Rebellion Keisha N. Blain and Jesse Hagopian addressed the role of police throughout U.S. history, the connection between lynching and police brutality, and the importance of highlighting stories of resistance, particularly by women of color in the fight for human rights.


May 29, 2020: Black Feminist Organizing: 1950s to the 21st Century Barbara Ransby joined in conversation with Jesse Hagopian about the history of Black feminist organizing. That day, the nationwide rebellion in protest of police brutality was in everyone’s hearts and minds, and Ransby made connections between past and present struggles.


May 22, 2020: Black Left: 1930s to the Early 1950s Robin D. G. Kelley described and challenged stereotypes about communism in U.S. history, in a conversation with Cierra Kaler-Jones, describing the histories of the Scottsboro Nine, the Southern Tenant Farmers Union, and other individuals.


May 15, 2020: Black Athletes and the Black Freedom Struggle. Sports writer Dave Zirin joined Jesse Hagopian to discuss the activism of noted athletes, including Jackie Robinson, Curt Flood, Wilma Rudolph, Wyomia Tyus, Muhammad Ali, John Carlos, Tommie Smith and organized campaigns such as the Olympic Project for Human Rights.


May 8, 2020: Women in the Black Panther Party. Robyn Spencer and Mary Phillips introduced the role of women in the Black Panther Party through discussion, a video clip, and art. They were introduced by Jesse Hagopian who co-wrote a lesson on the Black Panther Party at the Zinn Education Project website. In the words of a participant, they “deconstructed the Martin-Malcolm dichotomy, centering women and gender in the history of the Panthers.”


May 1, 2020: Rethinking Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On International Workers’ Day, Jeanne Theoharis and Jesse Hagopian discussed the radical history of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Theoharis shared stories about the influence of Coretta Scott King and on Dr. King’s role in the North, the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, and the Poor People’s Campaign.


April 24, 2020: Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee On this 60th anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), we hosted SNCC veterans Courtland Cox and Judy Richardson, in conversation with high school teacher Jessica Rucker. They described the role of popular education materials and a network of organizers across generations.


April 17, 2020: The Civil Rights Movement in the North Jeanne Theoharis’ discussion with Jesse Hagopian challenged the traditional narrative of the Civil Rights Movement with descriptions of oppression and resistance in the North. (Did you know the biggest civil rights action of the 1960s was in New York City?) She talked about Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and Boston.


April 10, 2020: Teenagers in the Civil Rights Movement This session, led by Jeanne Theoharis and Jesse Hagopian, highlighted the leading role teenagers played in the Civil Rights Movement — from desegregating Montgomery’s buses to the student sit-ins to the high school walkouts of the 1960s. Two contemporary youth organizers spoke as well.


March 27 and April 3, 2020: The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks Based on Jeanne Theoharis’s book of the same name, this session introduced participants to Rosa Parks’ activism prior to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, her trip to the Highlander Folk School, and the decades she dedicated to challenging racism in the North. Bill Bigelow wrote a lesson to bring this more complete story of Rosa Parks to classrooms.


Each session or mini-class is for 90 minutes. There are breakout rooms for 12 minutes about half-way through the session to allow participants (in small groups of five or six) to meet each other, discuss the content, and share teaching ideas. We designed the sessions for teachers and other school staff, however, parents, students, and others are welcome to participate. The session format is as follows:

  • Presentation by a historian in conversation with a high school teacher or another scholar.
  • Small group conversations by participants (using Zoom breakout rooms) to discuss insights from the talk and approaches to teaching.
  • Presenters respond to questions with the full group and share teaching resources.
  • Evaluation by participants.

Questions? Write to zep@zinnedproject.org


These sessions are made possible thanks to support from the Communities for Just Schools Fund, individuals, and the donors to the Teach the Black Freedom Struggle campaign.

Please add your support and make a donation so that we can continue to offer people’s history lessons, resources, workshops — and now online mini-classes — for free to K-12 teachers and students. We depend on individuals like you.


 

4 comments on “Teach the Black Freedom Struggle Online Classes

  1. James Morgan III on

    I have loved participating in these sessions. This focus on the Black Freedom Struggle was much needed and long over-due.

  2. Katie Orr on

    Yes! You can access the recordings by clicking on the links below “Sessions to Date” toward the top of this page. The individual recordings are on each page about that particular class.

  3. Connie Ables-Rigsbee on

    Are these sessions recorded? If so, how can I get access. I would love to attend the Juneteenth session but have another Required Professional development that day.

  4. Jeff Zanger on

    I just registered for future sessions, and I’d love to watch the previous sessions. Is there somewhere I can access a recording of them?

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