A Young People’s History of the United States is a staple in our classroom. We take a look at the “discovery” of the Americas through the lens of those that were “discovered” and hold to account the colonizers who brought pain, suffering, and death to native populations. We learned that Columbus and his crew also used violence and brutality toward the Taíno people. They enslaved many Taíno men, women, and children, and, by some estimates, the Taíno population declined from millions to just a few thousand within a few decades of Columbus’ arrival.
By learning about events like wars, genocide, slavery, and oppression, young people can develop a greater appreciation for the struggles of those who came before them and the progress that has been made. Students need to know the “hard history” because, without it, our story is incomplete. It provides a sense of empathy for others who have experienced hardship and injustice, and can inspire young people to work towards a better, more equitable future for all. By confronting and acknowledging unpleasant parts of history, we can work towards reconciliation and healing and create a more just society.