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 Facing Our PastShaping Our Future

Untold History of the United States challenges the basic narrative of U.S. history that most Americans have been taught.  That popular and somewhat mythic view, carefully filtered through the prism of American altruism, benevolence, magnanimity, exceptionalism, and devotion to liberty and justice, is introduced in early childhood, and retold so often that it becomes part of the air that Americans breathe.  It is consoling; it is comforting.  But it only tells a small part of the story.  It may convince those who don’t probe too deeply, but like the real air Americans breathe, it is ultimately harmful, noxious, polluted.  It not only renders Americans incapable of understanding the way much of the rest of the world looks at the United States, it leaves them unable to act effectively to change the world for the better.

For Americans, like people everywhere, are in thrall to their visions of the past, rarely realizing the extent to which their understanding of history shapes behavior in the here and now.  Historical understanding defines people’s very sense of what is thinkable and achievable.  As a result, many have lost the ability to imagine a world that is substantially different from and better than what exists today.

Thus, the book we have written, though inspired by and based upon the documentary film series, is in many ways independent.  We see the book and documentary as complementary but not the same.  We hope documentary viewers will read the book to get a fuller sense of this history and that readers will watch the documentary to get the full power of the visual and dramatic presentation.  We offer both book and film series to the forces of progressive change around the world in the hopes that the information we provide will prove useful in their fight for a more just, humane, democratic, and equitable world.

“History is important.  If you don’t know history it is as if you were born yesterday.  And if you were born yesterday, anybody up there in a position of power can tell you anything, and you have no way of checking up on it.”                -Howard Zinn

Our work is informed and inspired by a generation of historians who challenged the myth of American Exceptionalism and laid bare the rise and growth of the American empire and national security state.  Our scholarship builds upon the research and writing of historians such as Charles Beard, W.E.B. DuBois, William Appleman Williams, D.F. Fleming, Lloyd Gardner, Walter LaFeber, Gabriel Kolko, Thomas McCormick, Warren Susman, E.P.Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm, Noam Chomsky, Gar Alperovitz, Marilyn Young, Howard Zinn, Martin Sherwin, Carolyn Eisenberg, Paul Buhle, Chalmers Johnson, Alfred McCoy, Arnold Offner, Laura Hein, Odd Arne Westad, Bruce Cumings, John Dower, Barton Bernstein, Stephen Cohen, Michael Sherry, Yuki Tanaka, Jeremy Kuzmarov, Max Paul Friedman, Mark Selden, Tsuyoshi Hasegawa, Andrew Bacevich, Ellen Schrecker, Robert Griffith,  Phil Brenner, Jon Wiener, Garry Wills, Gerard DeGroot,  Kai Bird, Cynthia Enloe, Lawrence Wittner, Paul Boyer, Carol Anderson, John Prados, Melvin Leffler, Greg Grandin, Alex Wellerstein, Jules Boykoff, Vincent Intondi, and many others who have advanced global perspectives on American foreign policy and a more critical examination of the commonly accepted historical narratives with which most Americans are familiar.  In the spirit of the late historian Howard Zinn, we are devoted to speaking truth to power, celebrating “unsung” historical actors, and advancing deeply critical historical dialogue at all educational levels.

This section of our website provides resources to those educators who wish to inspire students to think outside the boundaries of traditional historical textbooks and hegemonic conservative narratives that reinforce the status quo.  The websites below contain teaching materials, lesson plans and other educational tools necessary to foster vigorously critical thought about our history in hopes that we may together forge a more sustainable and equitable future for all people.

Untold History is proud to partner with the Zinn Education Project.   The goal of the Zinn Ed Project is to introduce students to a more accurate, complex, and engaging understanding of United States history than is found in traditional textbooks and curricula.  The empowering potential of studying U.S. history is often lost in a textbook-driven trivial pursuit of names and dates.  Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States emphasize the role of working people, women, people of color, and organized social movements in shaping history.  Students learn that history is made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions, thereby also learning that their own choices and actions matter.   Read more about their philosophy and pedagogy here.  We wholeheartedly endorse it!

Groundspark

Groundspark’s mission is to create visionary films and dynamic educational campaigns that move individuals and communities to take action for a more just world.  They specialize in crafting strategic documentary films and distribution campaigns with ambitious social, economic, and environmental justice goals.

Working closely with movement advocates and public interest organizations, Groundspark

  • envisions the structural, political, or cultural change that needs to happen;
  • identifies the stories and messaging that can move audiences to get involved;
  • assesses the best format, length, and style that will help achieve the project’s goals;
  • collaborates to craft a top-notch production; and,
  • designs an audience engagement and outreach strategy that will harness the power of film to catalyze change

Please view the trailer for Groundspark’s Academy Award-winning film Deadly Deception, a documentary that uncovers the disastrous health and environmental side effects caused by the production of nuclear materials by the General Electric Corporation. The film juxtaposes GE’s rosy “We Bring Good Things to Life” commercials with the true stories of people whose lives were devastated by the company’s involvement in testing and making nuclear weapons.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xo9O5gDok6o

American University Nuclear Studies Institute and Nuclear Education Project

Founded in 1995, the Nuclear Studies Institute is dedicated to educating the public about crucial aspects of nuclear history.  To that end, the institute offers a summer program consisting of two classes at American University plus a third class – a study abroad trip to Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Kyoto.  As part of its mission, the Institute is participating in the Nuclear Education Project, which is a worldwide effort to improve access to teaching and learning materials regarding the history of the nuclear arms race, from the dropping of nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to current efforts to curb the spread of nuclear weapons.

American Immigration Council

The American Immigration Council honors, protects, and promotes laws, policies, and attitudes that preserve our proud history as a nation of immigrants.  Through research and policy advocacy, legal education and litigation, educational outreach and international exchange, the Council seeks to help shape a 21st century vision of American immigration.

Established in 1987 as a not-for-profit organization, The American Immigration Council exists to promote the prosperity and cultural richness of our diverse nation by:

Honoring the enduring contributions of America’s immigrants.

Protecting fundamental and constitutional human rights.

Promoting sensible and human immigration policies that reflect American values.

For K-12 educational resources to teach about America’s immigration history and present, please visit their website.

Teaching for Change

Teaching for Change provides teachers and parents with the tools to create schools where students learn to read, write and change the world.

Teaching for Change operates from the belief that schools can provide students the skills, knowledge and inspiration to be citizens and architects of a better world – or they can fortify the status quo.  By drawing direct connections to real world issues, Teaching for Change encourages teachers and students to question and re-think the world inside and outside their classrooms, build a more equitable, multicultural society, and become active global citizens.

Rethinking Schools

Rethinking Schools is firmly committed to equity and to the vision that public education is central to the creation of a humane, caring, multiracial democracy.   Since its founding, it has grown into a nationally prominent publisher of educational materials, with subscribers in all 50 states, all 10 Canadian provinces, and many other countries.

National Council for the Social Studies

Founded in 1921, National Council for the Social Studies has grown to be the largest association in the country devoted solely to social studies education.  NCSS engages and supports educators in strengthening and advocating social studies.  With members in all the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 69 foreign countries, NCSS serves as an umbrella organization for elementary, secondary, and college teachers of history, civics, geography, economics, political science, sociology, psychology, anthropology, and law-related education.

Teaching Tolerance

A place for educators to find thought-provoking news, conversation and support for those who care about diversity, equal opportunity and respect for differences in schools.

REACT to FILM

REACT to FILM (RtF) is a nonprofit that showcases the best documentary films to activate young people around critical social issues.  The RtF High School Program offers Common Core aligned curricula for a semester-long media literacy and civic engagement elective course.  The RtF College Action Network empowers student leaders to host simultaneous screenings nationwide on a quarterly basis to drive debate on social issues amongst collegiate youth.

The National Security Archive

Founded in 1985 by journalists and scholars to check rising government secrecy, the National Security Archive combines a unique range of functions: investigative journalism center, research institute on international affairs, library and archive of declassified U.S. documents (the world’s largest nongovernmental collection according to the Los Angeles Times), leading non-profit user of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, public interest law firm defending and expanding public access to government information, global advocate of open government, and indexer and publisher of former secrets.

Facing History and Ourselves

For more than 30 years, Facing History has believed that education is the key to combating bigotry and nurturing democracy.  Through a rigorous investigation of the events that led to the Holocaust, as well as other recent examples of genocide and mass violence, students in a Facing History class learn to combat prejudice with compassion, indifference with participation, and myth and misinformation with knowledge.

Parents of the Revolution

Parents of the Revolution is a documentary that follows a group of activist parents as they guide their children into the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Believing that it is their democratic responsibility to teach their children how to speak out against injustices, these parents take their passions to the front lines, where they meet resistance and, in some cases, outright hostility from the police.  An essential Common Core-aligned teaching tool for 21st Century American Government classrooms, Parents of the Revolution addresses the following themes:

-the meaning of democracy

-conflicting philosophies about how to practice democracy

-the ethics of involving children in that practice

-the proper role of policing in a democracy

-the balance between democratic expression and the rule of law

The exploration of those essential questions and themes, along with vivid first-hand footage of the 2011 movement, make Parents of the Revolution the best cinematic representation of Occupy Wall Street.

The Road to Little Rock

The Road to Little Rock is a 30-minute documentary (elementary and secondary versions available) and companion curriculum that tells a story of nine teenagers and one judge who demonstrated the enduring positive human qualities of courage, honor, determination and responsibility.  In 1957, nine African-American students sought enrollment at an all-white high school in Little Rock, Arkansas.  In 1957 many school districts continued to ignore the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared that segregation in public schools was unconstitutional.  Students witness the courage and determination demonstrated by the “Little Rock Nine,” and are introduced to U.S. Federal Judge Ronald N. Davies, who followed the law, ignored political pressure and required the Little Rock school district to integrate “forthwith.”

The corresponding curriculum packet includes primary source text analysis (including political cartoons and photographs), DBQ style writing assignments, writing argumentative/informative/explanatory/reflective essays, character education and application of knowledge.