It’s time to take action. . . . again.
Last summer, teachers rallied across the country at historic sites to speak out against anti-history education bills and to make public their pledge to teach the truth. These actions, on June 12 and in August of 2021, have been the only national protests of this dangerous legislation.
The teacher-led rallies received national media attention, providing a valuable counter narrative to the oversized coverage of anti-CRT protests at school board meetings.
One year later, we invite educators, students, parents, and community members to rally across the country and pledge to #TeachTruth on June 11 and 12, 2022.
The situation is urgent.
Lawmakers in 42 states have introduced legislation or pursued other measures that attempt to require educators to lie to students about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, transphobia, and other forms of oppression throughout U.S. history. These laws and restrictions have been imposed in at least 17 states.
As Education Week reports,
More than 17.7 million public school students enrolled in almost 900 districts across the country could have their learning restricted by local action and the recent slate of laws and policies aimed to ban teaching concepts related to race, racism, and gender, and often deemed “critical race theory.”
Books by Black, Indigenous, authors of color, and LGBTQ+ writers are increasingly being banned, with more than 1,500 book bans enacted in U.S. school districts in the last nine months.
In addition to the attack on teaching the truth about structural racism and sexism, the Right has declared war on LGBTQ+ youth. So far in 2022, there are more than 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills under consideration in state legislatures, including bans against trans youth participating in sports consistent with their gender identity, prohibitions on teaching about gender identity, and most dangerously, attempts to criminalize gender-affirming health care. None of these anti-LGBTQ+ laws can be discussed in the classroom, since the anti-history education bills ban teaching about structural oppression or “divisive topics.”
While claiming to “protect” young people, the right-wing legislators block any efforts to address gun violence (the leading cause of death for young people) and the existential threat of climate change.
This is a national call.
Although bills and budget resolutions are being proposed (and in some cases passed) in specific states, the threat to teaching — and the need for solidarity — is everywhere.
We invite people to participate from all over the United States. You can plan a virtual event or gathering at an historic site.
The co-sponsors include Learning for Justice, Climate Generation, Race Forward H.E.A.L. (Honest Education Action & Leadership) Together, National Education Association, Communities for Just Schools Fund, National Center for Youth Law, Modjeska Simkins School for Human Rights, Center for Black Educator Development, Journeys in Film, SpeakOut, and Voice of Witness.
Locations to Date
Educators are already planning activities in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, D.C., Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Washington, and more cities. See the list and locations.
Follow the step-by-step instructions below to add YOUR event!
How to Plan An Action in Your City
To make our voices loud and clear, we hope to see actions (of all sizes — from one person to 100+) all over the United States. Below is a step-by-step guide with creative ideas.
It is important to sign up so that we can send you more resources and support. While the step-by-step guide is detailed, the process is simple:
- Organize a gathering at the site (or online) with fellow educators, family members, students, and community members. The group can be any size. If you don’t have time to organize a group, pick a site and go on your own or with a friend. Every voice and action counts!
- You could invite teachers to read their pledges and students to share why learning the truth about history is important to them.
- Post photos and videos to social media with the hashtag #TeachTruth
Day of Action Step-By-Step Guide
1. SELECT A SITE, DATE, AND TIME
Plan where to hold your event. It could be a virtual teach-in or town hall. If in person, select a site in your town or city that symbolizes or reflects history that teachers would be required to lie about or omit if these bills become law, which is already the case in some states. It could be identified by a historic marker, statue, archive, burial ground, or museum.
There are also countless historic sites that are unmarked — such as a freeway that destroyed a neighborhood or a university building funded by enslaved labor.
The power of selecting a historic site is that it becomes the focus of your media interviews, providing a concrete example of the history young people have a right to learn.
If in person, we encourage you to check on and be aware of any local guidance or ordinances on public gatherings in your area. And although outdoor gatherings are seen as safer, we recommend wearing masks and staying appropriately distanced to protect the health and well-being of all people in attendance.
Select any day or time on June 11 or 12. If that weekend does not work, pick another day.
2. PLAN AN ACTIVITY
Organize an event with fellow educators, family members, students, and community members. The group can be any size. If you don’t have time to organize a group, pick a site and go on your own. Every action counts.
Determine type of action. There are a lot of options for organizing your event. Below are some ideas from the events in June and August of 2021. For any events with speakers, it helps to have access to a microphone and amplifier so that everyone can hear.
Teachers read pledges and/or students testify at a historic site. There is power in having a group of teachers read their pledges aloud and students testify to why they want to learn history outside the textbook. Arrange to have one person as an MC who can create a list of the teachers who agree to read their pledges, introducing them one by one and keeping the program moving at a good pace.
In preparation, ask teachers in advance to read their pledges and students to share why learning the truth about history is important to them. For example, in Washington, D.C., the group met at the African American Civil War Memorial and Museum. A 3rd-grade teacher was the MC and the museum director spoke and then teachers read their pledges. See photos and story about the D.C. event.
Walking tours. In addition to selecting a historic site for your convening, you can invite participants to walk or march to additional sites. Teachers in Memphis and Seattle organized walking tours, with different people responsible for sharing the history at each location. Here is the announcement for Memphis and here are photos of the event. In Waterloo, Iowa, speakers addressed the history of various sites that were in close proximity.
Rally with speakers. In addition to having teachers read pledges, you can invite noted guests to speak. Speakers could include historians, elected officials, poets, voting or climate justice activists, labor leaders, and more. We recommend encouraging speakers to keep their talks to five minutes or less. As an example, see the video from the June 12 event organized by Black Lives Matter Week of Action—Philly at The President’s House. If you are looking for speakers, here are sources:
Books to symbolize banned history. As you plan your event, consider visuals to convey the goals of your gathering to the public and the media. One suggestion is to have everyone bring a book that symbolizes the history they want to protect the right to teach about. For example, in Concord, New Hampshire, there was a book swap on June 12.
The Concord invitation said: “Participants are encouraged to bring a book that changed their perspective on systemic racism/inequity that might be considered “divisive” under the new law and treat the event as a giant book swap. Attendees will be welcomed to place their book on the capitol steps and at the end of the event, anyone who brings a book can pick a new one!”
Students as Historians. Students can be invited to share the local history of the respective site you select.
In Youngstown, students in a youth group shared the history of the local pool. (See photo above.) They also made the link to mass incarceration. A prisoner (speaking via cell phone and amplifier) addressed the group. Read the announcement.
Gather at History Sites Countywide. In Westchester County, an organizer got folks to pledge to #TeachTruth at sites throughout the county on July 22. See photos and read a detailed description of how the event was organized.
Virtual teach-in or town hall. The day of action event can be offered online as a teach-in with various presenters or a large group town hall. For example, the Foster Woods Folk School virtual teach-in on June 12 offered a series of five- to seven-minute “illegal lessons” from or about a historical site or event near them. Read the description of the sessions and watch the video. Black Lives Matter at School—Iowa hosted a town hall forum for educators, parents, and students to discuss the impact of the legislation and honor the stories and experiences of Black Iowans.
Before you keep reading, please sign up using the button below. It is important that we are in touch with all the site coordinators so we can offer support and resources.
3. SPREAD THE WORD
Create a Facebook event or webpage announcement. For Facebook, check out this example from Youngstown.
Send that link to the Zinn Education Project so that we can announce your event. We will add it to a page listing all the events nationally — and if you like — we can send an email to all the teachers on our list in your state or region. (We will send the email to you to check first to make sure all the information is correct.)
It will be on a page similar to this listing of June 12 events.
Create a graphic for your event. We will send you templates and customizable graphics as soon as you sign up.
On the announcement, include the hashtag #TeachTruth, a link to the national call to action, directions to the site, and remind participants to bring signs, a mask, and a water bottle. (We discourage the use of plastic water bottles, so encourage participants to bring reusable bottles.) Ask for volunteers to take photos and help with social media.
If you prefer not to have your event listed, skip this step.
4. SECURE SPONSORS
Invite local organizations to endorse or join your action, such as the:
- state council for social studies
- teacher education programs at local universities
- teacher unions
- middle and high school student groups
- local poets, musicians, and artists
- voting rights organizations
- climate justice groups
- education advocacy groups
- community based civic organizations
- local elected officials
- religious leaders
- racial justice organizations
5. PREPARE MATERIALS FOR THE DAY OF ACTION
Print handouts from the toolkit.
Gather supplies you might need, such as tape, a trash bag, sign-up sheets, pens, and markers. Bring a few water bottles as backup in case people don’t bring their own.
6. GET IN THE NEWS
Make sure teachers’ voices are heard. We had a lot of success in June and August, 2021, with local and national media coverage. The media kit includes templates and guidance for media releases. We will offer a media training in early June. Check out selected local coverage from June 2021 in Portland, Waterloo, Youngstown, and Rhode Island.
The media announcements are sent two days in advance of the event and on the morning of the event.
Have tables set up for social media posts with signs for people to hold. Once you sign up, we will send you lots of downloadable graphics to use as is or to customize.
Order yard signs for participants to take home. Learn how.
8. DURING THE EVENT
Post photos and videos to social media with the hashtag: #TeachTruth
9. AFTER THE EVENT
Send pictures and descriptions from your event to the Zinn Education Project for posting online. Email to email@example.com.
Take the time to congratulate yourself and your colleagues!
ASK FOR HELP
Please stay in touch, share updates, and ask for assistance. We have team members who can schedule a call with you to help with your organizing and/or media strategy. We want every site to be as successful as possible.
Fill out the form below. We will send you a media guide and graphics.