Teaching Resistance in Dangerous Times

Source: Lorie Shaull; Student Gun Protest | Zinn Education Project

Teens for Gun Reform protest at the White House. Source: Lorie Shaull.

Educators have returned to their classrooms this fall to help students make sense of the dizzying and horrifying three-years since the presidential election. It is natural to respond to the breadth of this campaign of destruction with despair.

But our students deserve a curriculum that serves as an antidote to discouragement.

The last three years have also told a story of continuous resistance. Although not yet strong enough to change the status quo, these growing movements point to a different, better future.

We invite you to teach — in our classrooms and in the streets — the hope-inspiring maxim that “people make history.”

We include lessons — some highlighted below — that:

  • Show how social movements have organized and made strides even during dangerous times.
  • Help students explore other moments in history when elites have mobilized to roll back racial and economic progress.
  • Highlight examples of “divide and conquer” politics.
  • Help students explore aspects of this administration’s agenda — white supremacy, xenophobia, Islamophobia; attacks on the environment, civil liberties, women’s rights, and the press; growing economic inequality — and how activists are responding.

Civil rights organizer Ella Baker said, “We who believe in freedom cannot rest.” The role of teachers is crucial in this freedom struggle. Please check out the lessons and resources below.

JUMP TO: Organizing and Resistance • Roll Back Racial and Economic Progress“Divide and Conquer” PoliticsEnvironmentCivil LibertiesImmigrationEconomic InequalityMuslimsPress

Lessons and Other Classroom Resources

Organizing and Resistance

Students can draw hope from stories of people organizing even under the most repressive conditions. Here are just a few of countless examples.

Poetry of Defiance: How the Enslaved Resisted

Through a mixer activity, students are introduced to the various ways that enslaved people resisted the brutal exploitation of slavery. The lesson culminates in a collective class poem highlighting the defiance of the enslaved. By Adam Sanchez. Learn more.

>> More resources on Organizing

Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union: Black and White Unite?

Role play on farm labor organizing, with Black and white tenant farmers creating a powerful alliance. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. Download.

 

Warriors Don’t Cry: Connecting History, Literature, and Our Lives

Role play and writing activities for language arts and social studies on the Little Rock Nine. By Linda Christensen. Download.

Teaching with the Black Panthers’ Ten Point Program

A study of the Black Panther’s Ten Point Program to help students assess issues in their own communities. By Wayne Au. Download.

>> More resources on the Black Panthers

Women in Labor History (Profiles) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Women in Labor History

From championing better workplace conditions to cutting back the 12-hour day to demanding equal pay across racial lines, these are just a few of the women in the labor movement. Read more.

>> More resources on Women

Pump Up the Blowouts: Reflections on the 40th Anniversary of the Chicano/a School Blowouts

Reflections on teaching students about the 1968 walkouts by Chicano students in California. By Gilda L. Ochoa. Download article.

>> More resources on Latinos

When We Fight, We Win (Book) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

When We Fight We Win!: Twenty-First-Century Social Movements and the Activists That Are Transforming Our World

21st century leaders and activists, sharing lessons of what makes and what hinders transformative social change. By Greg Jobin Leeds, Dey Hernandez Vazquez, and AgitArte. Learn more.

>> More resources on Organizing

 

Roll Back Racial and Economic Progress

While textbooks portray U.S. history as a steady march of progress, there have been frequent reversals. These resources highlight a few of the many times in U.S. history when advances made by people of color were rolled back. For example, the political and economic gains by African Americans during Reconstruction were met by brutal, terrorist attacks by white supremacists.​

Teach Reconstruction Banner | Zinn Education Project

Reconstruction Era (1865-1877)

After the Civil War, with the protection of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1866, African Americans voted, ran for elected office, attended school, acquired land, found employment, and used public accommodations. These Reconstruction Era advances ended with violent repression by white supremacists. Browse.

 "Running the Negro out of Tulsa" | Zinn Education Project

Burned Out of Homes and History: Unearthing the Silenced Voices of the Tulsa Race Riot

The thriving community known as Black Wall Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was burned to the ground in 1921. This lesson explores how what is known as the “Tulsa Race Riot” (more like a massacre) and many similar events in U.S. history led to patterns of displacement and wealth inequality today. By Linda Christensen. Download.

PreciousKnowledge

Ethnic Studies Banned in Tucson

A highly successful Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, Arizona, was banned in 2011. Students and teachers organized to protect the program that demonstrated a dramatic increase in college enrollment by Mexican American students. The film Precious Knowledge documents this struggle.

Why We Should Learn About the FBI’s War on the Civil Rights Movement (If We Knew Our History) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Why We Should Teach About the FBI’s War on the Civil Rights Movement

COINTELPRO was a FBI campaign in the 1960s to infiltrate, disrupt, and destroy a wide range of activist groups, with a focus on the Civil Rights Movement, the Young Lords, the American Indian Movement, and the anti-war movement. By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca. Read.

 

“Divide and Conquer” Politics

The easiest way to prevent organized demands for improved wages and working conditions is to create divisions. Here are three examples from U.S. history of how the strength of natural alliances among working people was undermined by orchestrated efforts by those in power.

The Color Line

A lesson on the countless colonial laws enacted to create division and inequality based on race. This helps students understand the origins of racism in the United States and who benefits. By Bill Bigelow. Download.

cigar_label_crop

It’s a Mystery—White Workers Against Black Workers

Students receive clues and discuss some of the factors that contributed to the intensification of racism in the 1920s. By Bill Bigelow and Norm Diamond. Download.

July 13-16, 1863: New York City Draft Riots (This Day in History) - Harper's Weekly illustration of the burning of the orphanage during the Draft Riots | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

The Draft Riot Mystery

Students are invited to solve a mystery, using historical clues, about the real story of the New York City Draft Riots of 1863. By Bill Bigelow. Download.

 

Countering Today’s Right Wing Agenda

Today’s right wing agenda impacts every aspect of students’ lives, including those listed here.

Environment

Teach Climate Justice (Square) | Zinn Education Project

Teach Climate Justice Campaign

We offer classroom-tested lessons that show how teachers are bringing their curriculum to life with climate justice. Our campaign also provides a sample school board climate justice resolution, and advice for those who would like their school district to adopt similar resolutions. Learn more.

‘Don’t Take Our Voices Away’: A Role Play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change (Lesson) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

‘Don’t Take Our Voices Away’: A Role Play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change

Students to develop a list of demands to present to the rest of the world at a climate change meeting. By Julie Treick O’Neill and Tim Swinehart. Download.

A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis (Teaching Guide) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

A People’s Curriculum for the Earth: Teaching Climate Change and the Environmental Crisis

Articles, student readings, and teaching activities to understand climate change and imagine solutions. Edited by Bill Bigelow and Tim Swinehart. Learn more.

 Civil Liberties

The Voting Rights Act: Ten Things You Should Know | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

The Voting Rights Act: Ten Things You Should Know

Key points in the history of the 1965 Voting Rights Act missing from most textbooks. By Emilye Crosby and Judy Richardson. Read.

Learning About the Unfairgrounds: A 4th-Grade Teacher Introduces Her Students to Executive Order 9066 (Teaching Activity) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

Learning About the Unfairgrounds: A 4th-Grade Teacher Introduces Her Students to Executive Order 9066

Lessons on Japanese American internment during WWII. By Katie Baydo-Reed. Download

>> More resources on Racism and Racial Identity

Immigration

Deportations Family Leaving | Zinn Education Project

Deportations on Trial: Mexican Americans During the Great Depression

In this role play students analyze who is to blame for the illegal, mass deportations of Mexican Americans and immigrants during the Great Depression. By Ursula Wolfe-Rocca. Learn more.

 

linebetween

The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration

Lessons for teaching about the history of U.S.–Mexico relations and current border and immigration issues. By Bill Bigelow. Learn more.

>> More resources on Immigration

Economic Inequality

Who Made the New Deal? Part II A role play explores the impact of popular movements on FDR’s policies (Lesson) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

The Great Depression and the New Deal

Part I: What Caused the Great Depression? The Widget Boom Game Part II: Who Made the New Deal? The Economic Recovery Conference Role Play. By Adam Sanchez. Read more.

>> More resources on Economics

Muslims

A People’s History of Muslims in the United States (Article) | Zinn Education Project: Teaching People's History

A People’s History of Muslims in the United States

Although the dominant media — including our schools’ curriculum — perpetuate stereotypes, history shows Muslims in the Americas have fought for social justice since the 15th century. By Alison Kysia. Read.

 

Press

Roland 11-Year-Old Newsboy | Zinn Education Project

News for All the People: The Epic Story of Race and the American Media

The history of media in the United States, through the lens of race. By Juan González and Joseph Torres. Learn more.


View full listing of teaching materials.

Share a story, question, or resource from your classroom.

Your email address will not be published.