On the two-year anniversary of Zinn Education Project’s Teach the Black Freedom Struggle online classes, we express our appreciation to the educators, scholars, students, organizers, and advocates for teaching people’s history who made the series such a balm in hard times.
This period has been the most difficult in memory for U.S. educators. First, the pandemic upended schooling, transforming overnight what it meant to teach. Then, like many other “essential workers,” educators got sick, lost family, and grieved their neighbors who died of COVID-19. Nor did history stop for the pandemic: Police brutality sparked massive uprisings, climate change exacerbated wildfires and storms displaced thousands, coups (at home and abroad) threatened democracy; all of this required educators’ attention, both as professionals and activists. And if this were not enough to contend with, right-wing groups sponsored a wave of curricular gag rules on what educators can teach about history, race and racism, and LGBTQ people.
The Teach the Black Freedom Struggle online classes have been a source of sustenance in this fraught time. Conceptualized by Dr. Jeanne Theoharis, these sessions bring together — at first weekly, now monthly — committed scholars with hundreds of educators to learn illuminating history and discuss its relevance for our time and for our classrooms.
The sessions are a gift reciprocated. For K–12 educators, the classes offer compelling alternatives to the standard slavery-to-Rosa-Parks-to-Obama narrative found in most textbooks. Scholars say, for them, it is incredibly heartening to witness their work make its way into pre-K-12 classrooms; when their college students plead, “Why did I have to wait until college to learn this?”, they can say, “We are working to make sure that isn’t the case moving forward.”
Participants tell us how important these classes are in validating the work they are doing in their schools — especially once the anti-CRT attacks began.
This comment following one session echoes dozens of others throughout the series: “Thank you for the work you do — it is important to connect and learn from people across the country doing this work. It can feel isolating and lonely and hard. Opportunities like this remind me that I am in this with MANY others.”
Teaching the truth can be isolating and hard. But it need not be. With scholars like those listed below acting in solidarity with teachers across the country, the Teach the Black Freedom Struggle classes have become a hallowed space to learn together and to work toward a more just future.
Thank you for joining us over the last two years.
We look forward to continuing to learn with you at an upcoming class. Below are more audiograms from our presenters.