2023 Annual Report | Facing History & Ourselves
A bright yellow classroom with an educator at the board with students sitting at desks.

2023 Annual Report

Facing History & Ourselves uses lessons of history to challenge teachers and their students to stand up to bigotry and hate.

Year in Review

Thank you to each of you who contribute to Facing History to ensure that our teachers and students have the resources they need to do such important work in the classroom. 

During a time when bigotry and hate are on the rise and demands on teachers are intensifying, Facing History & Ourselves remains a trusted source of support for educators. We launched several new programs and resources, and the feedback about our work is overwhelmingly positive. We are proud to share our annual report below, which highlights this impactful work that has only been possible because of your generosity. Thank you for helping Facing History empower the next generation to be more knowledgeable, empathetic, and civically engaged.

President and CEO of Facing History & Ourselves

A Message from our CEO

Facing History's President and CEO Desmond K. Blackburn reflects on our 2023 achievements.

Honoring our Founder, Margot Stern Strom

On March 28, 2023, Facing History’s founder, Margot Stern Strom, passed away at the age of 81. Her vision and work continues to impact students and teachers around the world. Learn about Margot’s accomplishments and legacy on this memorial page

Every teacher who joins our network, and every student who graduates from our schools, is a call to action, not an ending.
— Margot Stern Strom, Facing History's Founder

With Gratitude to Our Supporters

The generosity of our supporters has enabled us to give teachers the keys to empower millions of students to learn from history, to become more empathetic, and to be Upstanders, not bystanders. Check out our latest video, “Supporting Teachers, Empowering Students,” for an inspiring look and the impact you’ve helped make possible.

Thank you for investing in our work to support teachers and their students. We are truly grateful.

See our Supporter List


It's a hard time to be a teacher. And hard times are when teachers need us the most. Just one teacher can reach over 100 students every year, year after year. But they can't do it alone. That's why we uplift teachers with our dynamic approach to a different kind of classroom.

The students came to us and said, this is what we want to do.

Where history lessons jump off the page.

Our democracy can be so fragile.

And students are inspired to engage.

He puts primary sources at the center of the table every day.

In class and beyond. Where history-makers share their story.

The only solution is love and peace.

So students can shape their own.

I feel like I should be the person who stands up.

Where teachers encourage students to ask questions.

How can we make a more just society?

Think critically. Choose knowledge over misinformation. Empathy over prejudice. Action over indifference.

Education is the key to a successful society.

For nearly 50 years, in all 50 states and around the world, we've given teachers the keys to empower millions of students.

Having those deeper conversations.

To learn from history.

It changed form.

To become better humans. To be Upstanders, not bystanders.

It's up to us to create something better.

Because people make choices. And choices make history. If we could support more teachers, just imagine what we could do. It's time to make history together.

What do you think happens next?


Supporting Teachers, Empowering Students

Facing History students think about who they are and expand the universe of who they care about. Nothing could be more important at this time.
— Jill Garling, Board Chair


This year, with your partnership and support, we were able to provide resources to more than 330,000 educators and train more than 14,000 educators across the country and around the globe, in person and online. This included many new resources, several of which are highlighted below.

We also focused on initiatives that address growing and urgent needs for teachers, schools, and students. Below are a few highlights from two of these initiatives: Combating Contemporary Antisemitism and Teaching for Equity and Justice.

Combating Contemporary Antisemitism

As part of our efforts to address the urgent need in classrooms and communities to identify and stand up to contemporary antisemitism, our resources lay the foundation for a deep historical and contemporary study of antisemitism. Explore the Contemporary Antisemitism Resource Collection.

  • A purple map of the United States.
    More than 2,600 people from 47 states and several countries engaged in our contemporary antisemitism-focused learning events throughout fiscal year 2023 (FY23).
  • Icon of a computer monitor.
    We developed the Contemporary Antisemitism Resource Collectiona trove of continually updated content that has received more than 27,000 page views from users in the US and around the world in FY23.

Teaching for Equity & Justice

Through self-examination and interactive pedagogy, educators examine the historical context of access to and the purpose of education to explore current systems of inequity. Through Facing History, educators work together to improve equity and justice in classrooms and schools.

  • Icon of a ribbon with a checkmark in the middle.
    More than 600 educators in FY23 attended our Teaching for Equity and Justice workshops; 99% of educators would recommend the workshop to other educators.
  • Icon of a school building.
    We launched a new School Leadership Institute experience that helped 150 school leaders in FY23 build their capacity to develop and implement equitable classrooms and cultures at their schools. 

What Our Educators Are Saying

When our community of educators needs support tackling difficult topics, our current events resources help them thoughtfully address complex, timely issues.

I really can't tell you how many times some tragic or challenging event has happened in our world. And as a very tired, overworked teacher, I kind of went to bed thinking like, how will I address this with students tomorrow? Because I don't even have the energy to unpack it all.

And then I would wake up the next day to a email from Facing History and a writer within the organization had taken the time to craft a lesson for exactly how to thoughtfully address that complex issue.

Hear from longtime Facing History educator Bridget Riley.

Teachers like Bridget turn to Facing History for support when discussing current events with students. Explore the full Current Events Collection.

Thank You to Our Board & Leadership

Our volunteer network spans our geographic reach as well. Facing History is incredibly grateful to the members of our: Board of Directors, Leadership Council, Advisory Boards, and Board of Scholars, who govern the organization, provide philanthropic support, engage their communities and serve as thought leaders for our work around the world. 

Facing History & Ourselves acknowledges with great sadness the loss of our cherished friend and board member who passed away this year: Dr. Richard Hovannisian.  We remain ever grateful to have been guided by Dr. Hovannisian’s  wisdom, and we will continue to be enriched by the time he shared with us.

See Our Leadership

Community Events & Benefits

Facing History is proud to have hosted events this year where our incredible community had a chance to connect and to learn. At each event, we were inspired by motivating and meaningful speakers and the amazing generosity of our supporters— community members who are lifelong learners who believe in the potential to make the world a better, more inclusive space. Check out some highlights from these events from around the country below.

Malala Yousafzai Meets with Facing History Students

We were honored to host a screening of the Oscar-nominated film “Stranger at the Gate” with a special Q&A with executive producer, Malala. Learn more about the event.

AP Images for Facing History & Ourselves

I think my timing as the new President and CEO of Facing History couldn't be better. I returned just in time for our New York event.

Think about what I said a moment ago about denying or diluting the vote. When the vote in this country is denied or diluted, what do people say? They say, well, we're just trying to stop fraud. And how do you know that's not true? How do you know that's not true? The only way to know that's not true is by knowing history. If you know the history, then you understand the present.

Championing the complexities we all hold, the common ground that we have, and standing up to a single narrative has allowed me to grow and raise awareness for those things which may not have my voice or my platform. I often consider this guiding question: "how can we make a more just and inclusive society?" This question challenges me to center those whose stories might otherwise not break through, might not make the news. This question reminds me that now more than ever we are facing history and we must approach even the most deeply divisive conversations with bravery and joy together. The ability to draw connections is one of the greatest skills for which I can thank Facing History for.

I am here to tell you about how Facing History transformed my life as a student and ultimately educator. During my sophomore year my high school, Notre Dame San Jose, adopted Facing History curriculum into our humanities courses. My teachers that year mainly taught one of Facing History's core resources, Holocaust and Human Behavior. Because I was learning this history through the lens and voices of those who directly experienced it, I felt for the first time a connection to what I was learning in my class. It was no longer about memorizing an array of dates and names for a test but about deeply exploring the lived experiences and unimaginable circumstances endured by real people with real stories.

Let's welcome to the stage Adam Shapiro. Yeah. Wow. I played Mr. Shapiro on the Netflix show, Never Have I Ever. And I will tell you that the show is about an Indian American teen coming of age, and I play her dedicated, ultra-understanding, sometimes cringe worthy teacher in a class called Facing History--and Ourselves.

Facing History helped me understand that I can do something, and it helped me find the courage to help others. Supported by my Facing History teacher Ms. Gonzalez, who is also here in the building, with their help, I founded the Feed the Needy Club at Animo Jackie Robinson. We organized clothing drives. We built hygiene kits. And as part of my SAP project, we created shower facilities to help our unhoused community members.

1, 2, 3, all eyes on me guys. All right. Wow, those Facing History teachers really, really seem like they know what they're doing.

Event Highlight Reel

Highlights from our fall 2022 event in Tennessee and spring 2023 events in New York, Northern California, and Southern California.

New England’s Embrace Event

In May 2023, the New England office hosted a special community event celebrating Boston’s newest memorial, The Embrace, dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

The event consisted of two parts; first, a group walk and self guided tour to the Embrace memorial, including an activity where participants were encouraged to write down thoughts and ideas that the memorial space inspired. Second, an amazing panel discussion hosted by Facing History staff member Jocelyn Stanton. The panel members included architect and MASS Design founder Michael Murphy who partnered with the sculptor Hank Willis in creating the Embrace memorial, visual activist L’Merchie Frazier who is the executive director of creative & strategic planning for SPOKE Arts, cultural historian Sarah Elizabeth Lewis who is an associate professor at the African American studies department at Harvard, and author and sociology professor Eve L. Ewing. With Jocelyn’s guidance, the panelists discussed several topics such as the power behind public memorials, the place of art in social justice, as well as the important role that we all play in re-imagining a more inclusive future for generations to come.

2022 Southeast (TN) Benefit

In September 2022, the Facing History Southeast Benefit Dinner celebrated 30 years since the founding of our Memphis, TN, office. The region broke a “night-of giving” record! One of our educators shared this with us: “Monday night truly reinforced why I do what I do, and I know I was not the only one in the crowd with tears of joy and amazement of how a critically based education can change a person's life. Thank you not only for the lovely event, but also for all of the hard work Facing History and Ourselves does for educators like me. The resources, training, and support are invaluable to our school.”

2023 New York Benefit

In April 2023, Facing History New York made its grand return to its in person benefit with a new venue and format. Co-chaired by New York Advisory Board (NYAB) member Julia Pershan and Jonathan Cohen and long-time NYAB and Leadership Council member, Cecilia Chan, the New York benefit welcomed over 300 guests, including long-time Facing History supporters and Dr. Desmond Blackburn (on his 9th day as CEO!) to the New York Historical Society for a lesson on the fragility of democracy and the importance of choosing to participate in it. 

The program began with teacher and former Facing History staff member Tracy Garrison-Feinberg who led guests through a classroom-like experience about democracy through interactive polls, photos, and opportunities for open discussion. Tracy’s lesson built up to our keynote address, given by Professor Timothy Snyder (pictured), bestselling author and Yale University professor. The evening came to a close with the honoring of the 2023 New York Benefit Upstander Award recipients, teacher Gene Woods and his former student Chevon Williams, who perfectly embodied the importance of teacher-student relationship and the impact of a Facing History classroom.  This event surpassed our financial goal!

2023 Southern California Benefit

On May 24, 2023, the Southern California team held our Benefit at the Beverly Wilshire Ballroom, back in-person after four years. Co-chaired by Advisory Board members MyKhanh Shelton and Kobie Conner, the benefit welcomed about 250 guests to a new format, which allowed for increased interaction between guests and with activation stations before a seated program. Adam Shapiro (pictured), who famously played a Facing History teacher in the Netflix series Never Have I Ever, joined Facing History & Ourselves as emcee, bringing fun and levity to the night. The program included opening remarks by Facing History CEO and President Desmond Blackburn, a powerful conversation between Facing History's Chief Officer of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Dr. Steve Becton, and Educator Upstander, Kristin Botello, and reflections on the impact of Facing History from David Gomez, Student-Alumni Upstander. We surpassed our financial goal!

Educator & Alumni Spotlight

In April of 2023 Facing History & Ourselves presented celebrated educator Gene Woods and one of his former students, Chevon Williams, with Upstander Awards. These two recipients demonstrate the fullness of Facing History’s values: they create space for other people and ideas; they approach life with curiosity; they actively listen and learn; and they act with empathy and kindness—they are upstanders. We’re so proud to honor their contributions.

Gene and Chevon recently shared time together to talk about the lessons they learned as teacher and student in a Facing History social studies classroom at Bayonne High School in Bayonne, New Jersey. Beyond this connection point, they also expressed how the mentorship and examples of other upstanders have helped them overcome personal struggles and continue to motivate them as they move through the world.

Gene and Chevon embody the impact individuals can have when we choose to participate.

Watch their stories in the video below.

A Teacher and His Former Student Reflect on Choosing to Participate.

When I originally was in high school if you just think of someone that's looking for something to belong to you, that's what I was when I first started.

I originally didn't see my identity and learning as something that were synonymous.

I saw them as very separate, because that's how they were being taught to me.

So for a good portion of the beginning of my career that was missing and it definitely clicked once I took Facing History and Ourselves.

I sat right over there, right by Mr. Woods' desk.

Facing History.

I first came across the curriculum in 2010.

From like the first probably 20 minutes of it, I was hooked.

We start off the course looking at universe of obligation, circles of responsibility.

How do we see ourselves as changemakers?

And the way that I try to show my students that they can do it I will share personal stories with them.

For my grandmother, education was always important.

She pretty much raised me I was with her a lot before and after school.

And she was always talking to me about making sure I stay in school.

My household was not a pleasant place.

It wasn't a place of love outside of her.

In fifth grade, I was home sick.

There was a stepmother there, she was a big part of the problem.

And two of my friends, Deval and Terrence, showed up at the door to drop off my homework, and she took the stuff from them and slammed the door in their face.

And then... she she yelled, "don't you ever bring those n-words around the house again." And I knew they were, I knew they were outside that door.

And then I had to deal with that coming to school the next day.

But in fifth grade, which connects to a lot of stuff for me.

Mr. Sisk, he showed us Roots, and I think for me, that started some of the mechanism in my brain to understand the need to teach the truth when it came to history.

He taught us about thinking about others.

You have to acknowledge what happened prior, but also what's going on in that given moment.

If you don't give people that space to do that, you're never going to reconcile with the past.

So I think something that's really good about this class in Facing History is that it really gives students that outlet that they need to mold themselves into actively doing something.

The way that Mr. Woods seeks a light in students is something that's so important.

Once we started to look at some oral histories and original writings of different Holocaust survivors, I was really able to see myself in those stories.

And you could even go back to looking at the Rwandan genocide and getting to see a systematic taking over of a country.

Really seeing that in a complex way, made me really grapple with how I wanted to see myself as a person.

Whatever role that you take on, I want you to become active to really try to make a change.

Because no matter what we learn in here, we got to take it out with us.

And we have to have those hard conversations that we're talking about.

No matter what part of the curriculum you look at, whether it's the Holocaust and Human Behavior, Reconstruction, the atrocities that took place in Nanjing.

Everything is about change because everybody has that opportunity to make those changes.

I recall going to Kean University for a tour and during that tour, an oral history presentation about the Holocaust.

And that was the first time I saw what I was doing at high school in a college setting.

After the death of George Floyd I was one of the founding members of the Voting Squad.

We created a presentation together and we thought about how this would work.

We emailed different professors.

We asked just different people everywhere if they could make sure that they were talking about voting in their classrooms.

I think the key takeaway was that it was someone that was of similar age talking about the importance of voting.

And through that initiative, we ended up winning most engaged campus.

People always want to give me credit for student successes, and I feel uncomfortable sometimes with that because yes, I help, but they were already excelling and maybe just needed a little nudge there.

So for me, I'm super, super proud of Chevon.

I mean, hearing and the stuff about the voting and just being a real active person in her school community, it just makes me really, really proud.

Mr. Woods was very intense from the get go when I entered his class, but it was in a way that felt welcoming and warm.

We worked together in our course to understand each other and have these difficult conversations because that's really the only way that you can learn and you can really hope to change what's going on.

If you don't understand each other, you can't understand the history you're learning.

Being able to have those moments that Facing History and Ourselves gives to look at the other and then look within yourself, is so important.

A Teacher and His Former Student Reflect on Choosing to Participate.

Gene Woods taught Chevon Williams in a Facing History classroom—he helped inspire her to be an upstander, just as a teacher years before had done for him. Learn more about our upstanders.

More About Our Upstanders

Chevon Williams

Chevon Williams posing in front of Kean University banner

Gene Woods

Gene Woods
As we enter the mid-point of our three-year strategic plan, Facing History's financial foundation remains strong. We are poised not just for financial sustainability, but for growth, in the year ahead.
— Emily Leventhal, Chair, Finance Committee