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"New PRRAC/Teaching for Change Publication"

In a couple of past issues, we’ve announced the forthcoming publication of Putting the Movement Back Into Civil Rights Teaching. By the time this issue reaches you, it will be out! Here’s what it is:March/April 2004 issue of Poverty & Race

In a couple of past issues, we’ve announced the forthcoming publication of Putting the Movement Back Into Civil Rights Teaching. By the time this issue reaches you, it will be out! Here’s what it is:

It’s a dynamite 576-page, fulsomely illustrated, well-designed anthology of 117 articles, with a Foreword by Congressman John Lewis, divided into 7 sections: an Introduction (with pieces by June Jordan and James Boggs); Reflections on Teaching About the Movement (with pieces by Vincent Harding, Nancy Murray and others, including Herbert Kohl’s magnificent “The Politics of Children’s Literature: What’s Wrong with the Rosa Parks Myth”); Citizenship (with pieces by James Loewen, Ida B. Wells-Barnet, Bayard Rustin, Rita Dove, Bernice Johnson Reagon, César Chávez, Charles Sherrod, Kwame Touré, Malcolm X, Julian Bond, George Jackson, J. Edgar Hoover [sic], Leonard Peltier, Thurgood Marshall and others); Education (with pieces by Gwendolyn Brooks, Elizabeth Martínez, Sonia Sanchez, Robert Coles, Charles Cobb, Eric Foner, Jesse Jackson, Jr. and others); Economic Justice (with pieces by Marcus Garvey, Mathew Forstater, Mary Hollens and others); Culture (with pieces by Larry Neal, Pablo Neruda, Ras Baraka, Nancy Hom and others); Looking Ahead (Grace Lee Boggs and Leonard Peltier); and a rich on-line Resources Section – supplemented by a website (www. that has the full Table of Contents and regular updates. Over 30 concrete lesson plans are included for students of different ages.

We created this book because in all too many American classrooms, the Civil Rights Movement is taught as a spontaneous, emotional eruption of angry but saintly African Americans led by two or three inspired orators – discounting the origins, the intellect and the breadth that guided this complex social movement. Rather, strategic brilliance, logistical messiness, exalted joy, unbelievable courage, heart-gouging sorrow, sharp tactical conflicts and near-religious personal transformations are all part of the very human story of ending formal racial segregation in the United States. In addition, the civil rights story tends to focus exclusively on the Black freedom struggle, ignoring the struggles of all people for justice, in the U.S. and internationally, and the links among different social justice movements. The Movement has the capacity to help students develop a critical analysis of U.S. history, but the empowering potential is often lost in a trivial pursuit of names and dates. We need a resource that moves beyond “heroes and holidays,” one that uncovers and humanizes the stories of all the many, many ordinary people who did heroic things. Such a resource helps students to actually learn useful lessons about their role in the world, develop strategies to address present current problems in their own lives, and see themselves as agents of change.

Co-editors of Putting the Movement Back Into Civil Rights Teaching are Deborah Menkart, Executive Director of Teaching for Change; Alana Murray, a Fulbright scholar and middle school teacher with a Movement legacy (her grandfather, Donald Murray, desegregated the Univ. of Maryland Law School in 1935); and Jenice View, an 8th-grade teacher and Executive Director of Just Transition, an environmental nonprofit.

PRRAC’s role was to initiate the project with Teaching for Change (based on a day-long conference/workshop of the same title at Howard University, which featured Bob Moses, Howard Zinn, Sonia Sanchez, Taylor Branch and others); to generate the necessary funding; and to play an active role in everything from outreach work to attending regular editorial meetings, furnishing staff, and copy-editing/proofing every page of the book.

A truly impressive, and seriously involved, Advisory Board helped greatly – too numerous to list in its entirety, but representative names are Clayborne Carson, Bill Fletcher, Sylvia Hill, James Forman, Danny Glover, Elsa Barkley Brown, Sonia Sanchez, Juan Gonzalez, Lawrence Guyot, Debbie Wei, Charles Payne, Renee Pouissant, Juan Williams, Yohuru Williams and Howard Zinn.

On Wednesday, March 31, 6:30-8:30, we’re holding a formal book launch at the National Council of Negro Women headquarters in Wash., DC. NCNW Chair and President Emerita Dr. Dorothy Height will offer welcoming remarks, with Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., as the lead speaker. The book’s editors, contributors and other activists will follow up with comments on and readings from the book. We welcome your attendance -- please RSVP to Kate Munning at 202/588-7206, kmunning for further details.

The book is $25, with substantial bulk order discounts. Website has ordering information, or contact us at PRRAC,, 202/387-9887. Please let us know of any and all ideas or contacts for distributing and publicizing the book or information about it: conferences, schools, bookstores, mailing lists, etc.

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