In 1995, when I was assigned A People’s History of the United States by a professor during my first year of college, I had never read anything like it. Suddenly, the small subsection or the colorful inset of the giant textbook was getting some actual attention. The stories of marginalized and exploited groups were being given more than a blurb. In a time where the information superhighway was still only a two-lane road, I didn’t know where else to find these kinds of historical narratives.
After a decade of sweating in the service industry, I was finally able to secure a job teaching high school history. I was very excited to finally be doing the thing that I had wanted to do for so long. However, I soon was surprised to find that the “great men” narratives that had been pervasive in my textbooks were very much alive. Surely, I thought, those types of textbooks have been replaced — being more aware of historical biases, as we as a society are. From a source here and there, I was able to cobble together a few more inclusive lessons, but I knew I wanted more.
Fortunately, I recently stumbled across the Zinn Education Project. That same excitement that I once felt diving into the stories of those whose voices had not been elevated. These stories drive lessons that get students to see a broader picture than before. I continue to find new materials to add to my class, and I will continue to do so for years to come.