The People Spoke and They Need to Speak Again

By Alan Singer

As a social studies teacher, a political activist, and a historian, I am a big fan of Howard Zinn, and I very much enjoyed watching The People Speak on the History Channel Sunday night. Well-known and not so well-known actors read speeches, letters, and other primary source documents from the history of the United States. There were also photo montages and songs. It was not great theater or television, but it was a wonderful teaching tool. I have been using many of these documents in my social studies classes for the past four decades. They show aspects of United States history that are either ignored or minimized in most traditional textbooks and curricula. In the near future I hope we see secondary school students across the country participate in similar readers. Our schools, and our country, very much need it.

Currently, I have pre-service teachers in my social studies methods classes use Voices of a People’s History as a resource book when preparing lessons and units. I will now recommend that they have schools purchase copies of The People Speak and that they themselves sign up for the resources available from the Zinn Education Project ( I am pleased that an article I wrote about high school students tracing the history of slavery in New York City is included (Please note I did not get paid).