The Activist History Review's Latest Issue Features Powerful Essays by High School History StudentsHistorians in the News
tags: teaching, education, history, inequality
William Horne, Executive Editor of The Activist History Review, is a PhD candidate at The George Washington University researching the relationship of race to labor, freedom, and capitalism in post-Civil War Louisiana. He is currently a teacher at Collegiate Baton Rouge.
...As instructors in the humanities, we have a unique responsibility to empower students who struggle. We offer a raw explanatory power with which to frame injustice and oppression that few outside our discipline can access. This, more than anything else, represents the central contribution of our discipline. Sure, we “produce knowledge,” but racists and elites do that too. Lost Causers, after all, are nothing if not producers of elaborate systems of white supremacist knowledge. History, under their tutelage, seeks to justify systems of power and exploitation. What makes our work different is that we can explain how systems that are clearly unjust and exploitive came into being. In doing so, the best of our scholarship seeks to help students and readers overcome inequality and facilitate justice.
The essays for the Black History Month issue of The Activist History Review critique our present and offer hope for the future. The authors, all students from my 10thgrade Comparative Government class at Collegiate Baton Rouge, remind us that compelling writing is both relevant and bold. Their work also shows a way in which we might rethink history “from below,” not just as academic research on marginalized groups, but as scholarship written by non-scholars, activists, and members of disenfranchised communities. Their work reminds me that many of the most important thinkers, theorists, and activists come from oppressed communities. The great revolutionary thinkers of the Civil Rights generation—Angela Davis, Malcom X, and Huey Newton—adopted the mantle of the activist-scholar in the immediate and personal context of oppression. Why should we expect anything less in our classrooms?
As we work to expose and counter the legacies of centuries of white supremacy and inequality, we would do well to pay close attention to the scholarship of these young thinkers. Their work, both within and outside the classroom, is reminiscent of one of the key turning-points in the Civil Rights movement—the Children’s Crusade. Many of the most famous photos of Jim Crow policing in action come from this 1963 Birmingham youth revolt and underscore the injustice of segregation for many Americans. Now, as then, young people understand the ways that existing systems of power work to steal their future. They are capable, creative scholars whose relentless optimism should be an example for the most seasoned among us. We hope you enjoy their inspiring work, as I have, and that you take to heart the lessons they share. In many respects, our future depends on it.
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