Welcome, everyone. And thank you all for joining us this evening for The Road to Democracy Runs Through the Classroom. I'm Raquel España, Executive Director of Northern California at Facing History. We have a great conversation ahead between Facing History educator Eran DeSilva and Dr. Carol Anderson, who flew in from Georgia last night as the polls were closing.
Together, they'll talk about the urgent need to connect history, civic education, and individual action. I've only been here for a month, so I'm just delighted for the chance to meet you all and to learn with you tonight. Special thank you to our event host committee-- Edda, Alan, Darcel, Ida, Sarah and Zack-- as well as our advisory board members, the Facing History staff, and the generous donors in our Leadership Circle.
We're grateful for your partnership. I also want to give special recognition to educators, administrators, and elected officials who are with us tonight. Please stand up so we can give you round of applause. If you are in one of those categories, you can stand up.
This is our first event in the East Bay, and some of you are learning about Facing History for the first time tonight. So thank you for being here. I hope it's our first chance of many to get to know each other.
For 25 years here in Northern California and nearly 50 years nationally, Facing History and Ourselves has invited teachers and their students to connect the choices of the past to those we face today. So when we say we are Facing History, it's more than an introduction or a title to an event. Facing History is what students and teachers do in and out of the classroom.
Like so many of you, I am deeply concerned about our democracy. Yet I find real hope knowing that promoting civics and democracy has always been at the core of Facing History's work. Our approach centers students, is equity-focused, and promote civic engagement and civil discourse. We believe this approach gives young people the tools they need to help shape a less polarized and more equitable future.
At the same time, we know civic education must be rooted in history. This is key to helping us process and understand events unfolding today. Facing History believes when we make space to both reflect and take action with choices that center the common good, we are strengthening our democracy.
So what exactly do we do? We write lesson plans and other teaching resources. We create materials on both difficult histories and current events to make sure educators have the tools they need to help students connect the events of history with their lives. We hear time and time again on how vital these materials are to teachers. And most importantly, all of our resources are available for free on our website.
We also train and support middle school and high school educators. Our professional development supports educators to build brave, inclusive classrooms, where students can apply their critical thinking skills with empathy and engage in difficult discussions. We work with both individual teachers, as well as whole schools and districts to make change across an entire school community. We help schools adopt an equity-centered approach to teaching and create cultures where everyone feels a sense of belonging.
And lastly, but not least, we engage students. At Facing History, we help students confront choices in their own lives so they can become upstanders, not bystanders. Based on our evaluation data, we know that Facing History works. Students are more engaged in their learning and more likely to speak up when they hear or see acts of racism, antisemitism, or bigotry.
As you can imagine, our work is now more important than ever. We are living in a highly polarized social and political time. 8.3 million young people have turned 18 since the 2020 election, 46% being young people of color. We at Facing History want to meet this moment by discussing the vital importance of teaching civics in schools and exploring the ways we can inspire each other and all of our young people to participate in the democratic process.
So we are thrilled to welcome Dr. Anderson and Eran DeSilva to tonight's program. And we hope that during their conversation, they will help us all think critically about how the classroom is a perfect place to engage in democracy through a lively discussion.
So who are they? Eran DeSilva is the director of Teaching and Learning at Notre Dame High School in San Jose. She's been an educator for 21 years, with a focus on social justice education. She's been working with Facing History for over a decade, taking our professional development offerings and integrating materials and resources into the classroom.
Eran has been part of the Bay Area Teacher Leadership Team and also co-founded the Bay Area Facing History Student Leadership Network in 2014 with an Oakland educator. She was the recipient of the Margot Stern Strom Innovative Grant twice. Most recently, she co-authored a book, Leading in the Belly of the Beast: School Leadership in a System Designed to Fail, with three other Facing History educators and school leaders.
Dr. Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies at Emory University and a member of Facing History's Board of Scholars. She has written several books, including young adult adaptations. Her work has been a New York Times bestseller, longlisted for the National Book Award in nonfiction, and been nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
Dr. Anderson has been elected into the Society of American Historians, named a W.E.B Du Bois fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, and elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Professor Anderson was a member of the US State Department's Historical Advisory Committee and earned her PhD in history from Ohio State University. Please join me in welcoming Eran DeSilva and Dr. Carol Anderson.
Is my sound working? OK.
I was afraid they were going to turn it off because my jokes weren't good in sound check, but they did not.
Hi, everyone. Thank you for being here. I'm so excited and honored to be here with Dr. Anderson, who got to pick her seat first. So if she looks better, it's because of her seating.
I've been teaching with Facing History materials for about 15 years. And one of the most amazing things is that I can always learn more by partnering with Facing History. The book that Dr. Anderson wrote has just changed my perspective, documenting so much history into one book. I told her that I was going to be using just the notes section to show my students how much research goes into scholarship like that. So how lucky I am to be here with her.
So I'm going to go ahead and get us started. And I'm going to also ask you, for anyone who's a teacher in the room, you know that it's really important to get a sense of how your class is doing. So if you want to snap or hoot, holler, whatever, use jazz hands, please do that so that we know that you're listening and engaged, too, in whatever Dr. Anderson shares. I'm sure she'll appreciate that response, as well.
There's also some opportunity to ask questions. I don't know where the cards are, but I think you do. So, OK. So please do jot questions down, and we'll have some time for Q&A.
But I'm going to go ahead and get started with just the idea of Facing History and Ourselves. We start with ourselves. And so what brought you into education to be the scholar, the activist, the educator that you are? What brought you to write the book? What inspired you to do the work that you do right now?
It is-- that is a great question. What started off was, as a child, several things were coming together. One was trying to figure out why my brother was over in Vietnam.
And I couldn't figure it out. I was like, what's a communist? Who's a communist? Why isn't my brother home? My brother should be home. And I was a kid.
And so I went reading everything I could in the encyclopedia. Remember those books we used to have, right? Because we didn't have the internet back then, right? So it was like what you could get out of this book.
And I'm just gorging myself on this information, till it got to the point where, in school, we were to write a biography of somebody. And my classmates were writing on Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. I wrote on Joseph Stalin.
And my teacher went, rrr? I mean, she looked at me like, OK, what am I dealing with here?
And so it was this incredible hunger to figure out what was going on around me and how my neighborhood became the hood. You know, what was happening in terms of the public policy where I saw honest, hardworking folk who were doing everything that they were supposed to do and just watching their lives and the community around them collapse when they were doing everything that they were supposed to do?
It just, stuff wasn't adding up. And I was one of those kids that was always trying to figure it out, figure it out, figure it out. And I had great teachers in elementary and in junior high, who were just always there, pushing me, probing, asking me the tough questions. That's how I got here, just being naturally curious, contrary sometimes, hard-headed.
Those students are actually the ones that-- the ones that give you a run for your money, those are the ones that are going to push you to be asking those questions, too.
Yes. Yes. Yes.
So I'm going to actually just-- I'm going off script a little bit. Can you tell us a little bit about a teacher or a moment in school that really pushed you towards that education and digging into scholarship?
Oh, it was-- there were-- two teachers really hang out for me. One is Mrs. Love in the third grade. The third grade. Mrs. Love, she was teaching and she introduced us to Malcolm X. And we went, who? And she was like, you don't know Malcolm? And we're like, rrr-rrr, you know, it's just all Scooby Doo, like, rrr-OK?
And so she set out to just really get us to think much more deeply about the kind of surface knowledge that we had, about the people that we were told were the ones that we were supposed to be reading about and thinking about. She got us on the path to ask tougher questions of this society. And that was the third grade. I'm still in touch with Mrs. Love.
Yeah, she's all that.
Yeah, everyone should be snapping for that one.
And the other one was my art teacher from the seventh to the ninth grade, Mr. Shellman, because you know in that period in junior high when you're all awkward and weird? And his classroom was an incredible safe space, where I could be as awkward and as weird as I'm doing my artwork. And that artwork was really fueling all of the kinds of issues that were swirling around. So I did this monochromatic image of Richard Nixon.
Yeah, right? My mother, I brought that portrait home, my mother was like, what is that?
But it was also a space where he would talk with me about-- he said, so what do you want to do? And I said, I don't know, be a DJ. You know, and he was like, uh-uh. Uh-uh. Uh-uh, you've got so much more going on the ball than that. Have you thought about, have you thought about.
And so then when I got bussed in high school, I had already had the kind of love poured into me to be able to withstand the crap that was coming at me in that school system, and to be able to navigate those really harrowing spaces where I was told what I was not. But I knew who I was. And it was that strength that came in from Mrs. Love and Mr. Shellman that then got me through. Yeah.
So I'm going to shift a little bit to some of the work that you've been doing. And we've all seen the systematic, strategic policymaking that's created more barriers to our democracy, have made it harder to go to the polls and make your choices and exercise your power. Can you talk a little bit about how we got to where we are and where you think we're going?
Ooh. So as you heard, I live in Georgia.
And so I wrote a book called One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy. And that book emerged out of the 2016 election, because after that 2016 election, the pundits were just like, well, Black folks just didn't show up. You know? And in fact, Black voter turnout went down by 7%.
And they said, Black folks just didn't show up because they just weren't feeling Hillary because, you know, she's Hillary. And I was like, stop, because one, you getting ready to blame this Trumpian mess on Black folk? And two, the misogyny coursing through that statement is so profound. And three-- see, this is Mrs. Love, right--
--three, this is the first presidential election in 50 years without the protection of the Voting Rights Act. That's one of those big variables we need to pay attention to. And so it was sitting there and systematically figuring out how we got here.
And I ended up going back to the rise of Jim Crow and the Mississippi Plan of 1890 because there had been these components after Black folks, Black men got the right to vote with the Reconstruction Act of 1867. But it all gelled together in 1890 in Mississippi because Mississippi is like, oh, we got this. We got more Black folks registered than we have white folk?
Oh, no, we can't have this. And these folks are coming up and joining together and coming up with things like there should be, like, public schools for everybody and that you should have the right to vote for everybody, and that all of these little things about if you work hard, you ought to get paid a living wage. What is this mess? Oh, we can't have that. And so they started hollering voter fraud.
Shocking. Voter fraud. We must have election integrity. And we've got to clean up corruption at the ballot box. And they came up with the Mississippi Plan. And the Mississippi Plan-- and it was designed to sound reasonable and to circumnavigate the 15th Amendment that said that the right to vote shall not be abridged on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
So how do you write a law saying we don't want Black folk to vote without writing a law explicitly saying we don't want Black folk to vote? And so they used the legacies of slavery, and then made those legacies the access to the ballot box and made them sound like a legitimate defense of democracy. The poll tax.
The poll tax. It's like, ooh, democracy is expensive. Lord, it's expensive holding all these elections. And then you've got to have people who are, like, taking the ballots, and you've got to have people who are counting the ballots. And oh, it's so expensive. So if you really believed in democracy, you would be willing to pay a small fee.
Now, you notice how that flips the script right there. It doesn't say the state is responsible for holding free and fair elections. It's saying that if you really believed, you, the citizen, would be willing to pay a small fee. The problem with that is you see how legitimate that almost sounds?
But the problem with that is that after hundreds of years of unpaid labor, followed by the Black Codes, followed by sharecropping, that small fee amounted to 2% to 6% of a Mississippi farm family's annual income to be able to vote. 2% to 6% paid annually to be able to vote.
Then there was the literacy test. Again, sounding reasonable. Well, you want folks to understand our value system as a nation. If they are electing our officials, they've got to know the principles upon which this great nation was founded. You could almost hear the amber waves of grain in the background, right? And again, they swaddled themselves in the flag while they're talking this mess.
Now, again, the legacies of slavery, the enslaved were forbidden from being able to read. If they dared learn how to read, they could be killed. They could be tortured. Then, coming out of the Civil War, the significantly, vastly underfunded Black schools, where the state has not provided the wherewithal for real literacy, but now the state is requiring real literacy. What was the state requiring? That you read a section of the Constitution.
Again, it sounds legitimate. The power of the Mississippi Plan-- and there other components in there-- the power of the Mississippi Plan was that, in 1890, there were 190,000 Black men registered to vote. By 1892, two years later, there were 8,600.
The other states were like, ooh, this looks good. And then the US Supreme Court-- you know that US Supreme Court-- they were like, you know what? The poll tax and the literacy test don't violate the 15th Amendment because everybody has to pay the poll tax and everybody has to read.
By the time we got to 1942, in the midterm elections in the poll tax states, voter turnout was 3%. So when I'm teaching this, when I was teaching at the University of Missouri and I had my big American history survey class with over 300 students, what I would do-- and it was a required class to graduate. Oh, yeah.
So what I would do is I'd say, how many seniors do I have in here? Because you know there's always, you know, the seniors are like, oh man, because this is an entry-level class. Five eventually raised their hands out of like 300. And I said, great. I only have to pay attention to what you want. My freshman were like, what?
And I said, what do you want? And they're like, we don't want to take the exam. I said, done. They're like, rrr. My freshmen are freaking out big-time by this time. And then I said, what else do you want? And they said, we don't want to have to write the research paper. Done.
And then I said, what else do you want? They're like, we want an A. Done. They were like, (GASPING). OK, by this time, I mean, I've got like a full revolt happening. And I said, because you're the only ones who get to do my evaluation.
Welcome to Jim Crow. And so it is that system that systematically denied the vote to American citizens while using these kinds of legitimate concerns. Voter fraud. We must have integrity.
That is what has led us to this moment despite the Voting Rights Act, because when the Voting Rights Act was gutted in the Shelby County v Holder decision in 2013, you saw these states, I call it who let the dogs out. Texas, within two hours of the Shelby County v Holder, passed a racially discriminatory voter ID law.
And voter ID has that same kind of reasonable element of the poll tax because it's based on voter fraud, voter fraud, voter fraud. Well, you've got to make sure that the people are who they say they are when they're going to vote. That sounds logical. That sounds reasonable. And we had all of this voter fraud. No, we did not.
Justin Levitt, a law professor out of California, did a study. He found that from 2000 to 2014, there were 1 billion-- that's Carl Sagan-ish-- billion votes cast in the United States. There were 31 cases of voter impersonation fraud. 31 out of 1 billion.
It's like, 0.0000, oh, uh-oh, uh-oh. Ruh-oh. That becomes the foundation for the lie of massive, rampant voter fraud. And so while voter ID sounds logical, the way that these state legislatures wrote the law was to figure out who had what types of IDs by race, and then to make the IDs that whites disproportionately have to be the access point to the ballot box.
Give you a couple of examples-- Texas. Texas' law said, you must have a government-issued photo ID to be able to vote. But your student ID from a state college or university doesn't count, but your concealed weapon card does.
You got a gun? Yeah. You got an education? No. Now those IDs are racialized. 50% of those in state colleges and universities in Texas are folks of color, 80% of those who have the gun are white.
Let's take Alabama. Alabama said, you must have a government-issued photo ID to vote, but your public housing ID doesn't count. Now does it get more government issued than public housing? But 71% of those in public housing in Alabama are African American, and for many it was the only government-issued photo ID they had.
And then the governor, Governor Bentley, listening to his mistress-- Lord, you can't make this stuff up. It was almost like, baby, that pillow talk, you know what I want? He's like, yeah, what? What? And she's like, I want you to shut down the Department of Motor Vehicles in the Black Belt counties. [MAKES SURPRISE SOUND] OK. And so he shuts them down for fiscal reasons.
The state has to balance its budget. We're running a deficit, and these facilities aren't having the level of flow-through and traffic that would justify keeping them open. So what that meant then for a population that only had the public housing ID and then thought, OK, so let me go get a driver's license, because owning a car is expensive.
When you're looking at the massive wealth differential between the Black community and the white community, owning a car is very expensive. There's the car note, there's the upkeep, there's the service, there's the parking, there's the insurance, and so having a driver's license just doesn't make a lot of sense. But now folks will say, OK, I'll go get my driver's license.
But when he shut them down it did move those facilities about 50 miles away. So if you don't drive, and Alabama's ranked 48th in the nation in terms of public housing, then how do you get the 50 miles here and then the 50 miles back to be able to get the driver's license that you need to be able to vote? So one of the things that I started really seeing, and what I set out to do in that book, One Person, No Vote, was to make visible what this public policy does. What's underneath all of the soundbites? What's underneath the rhetoric? So we understand how it really operationalizes and why it's operationalized that way.
So how many of you learned something just now? How many of you snapped? OK. Oh, OK, OK. Well, I think just in that small amount of time you really lay out why it's so important to understand your history that's led us to this place we are, and how historical legacy will help you understand the landscape.
So the big question is, we have young people, we want them to be engaged in our civic community. We want them to make choices to be part of our democracy. And yet, we also need them to understand the history we carry forward with us. And at the same time, we have states who are controlling what history is told. So how do you-- in all states, in some states, and hopefully in our entire nation, how do you bridge for students that hard history with what's happening in contemporary politics, and with their own civic engagement?
I love that. One of the key pieces is, it's so important for students to see themselves in this work. That's why I love teaching the civil rights movement, because there, one of the things that I talk about, a key element in the civil rights movement was not only the local organizing. Oh, that grassroots organizing was so important. But the role of students, as I said, they were the shock troops of the movement.
And one of the reasons was because students are fearless, absolutely fearless. I'm like, I saw you driving-- fearless. And they had a sense of hope that they had the power to make this thing work, to make it better. And they deployed that fearlessness and that sense of hope in terms of making the, "we hold these truths to be self-evident" not just an aspiration but a reality.
And so when they see a Barbara Johns who was 17, 17, and was demanding an education in Port-- oh, just blanked on it. Prince Edwards, not Port, Prince Edwards, Virginia, and was demanding an education. And you had the school board going, Black kids don't need a decent building.
And she was like, oh, honey, you don't know my name. And so the school board eventually said, fine, because students, the building had a capacity of, say, 1,000. There were like, 2,000 students in that building. So imagine trying to teach in a place where students are sitting on top of each other on top of the floors.
And so finally the school board said, fine, fine, and they put up three tar paper shacks. Barbara Johns was like, not today, Satan, not today. And so she started organizing her student colleagues like, OK, we walking out of this mess at 10:00, right, we walking out at 10. Yeah, right? We're walking out at 10, right, we're walking out at 10.
And they got up and walked out that building. The administration went, [MAKES SQUEAKING SOUND]. And she was like, yeah, yeah. And so my students are seeing this fearless 17-year-old taking on the school board that refused to provide adequate education. She had terror raining down on her, so much so that her parents-- this is 1951-- that her parents had to move her to Alabama to safety. Now you know when you got to go to Alabama-- oh.
But my students see this, and they're like, yeah, or when they're seeing in Selma, where you've got-- I think he's Jimmy Webb, and I think he's 17 at the time. And he's going face to face with a deputy sheriff who's telling him, you can't pray. You go get back where you belong. And he's like, well, can we pray together? [SQUEALS]
And my students are seeing this and they know that there's something happening in American society today where they can have impact, and that means so much. So let me give you a quick example. In 2020, we had that election, and we ended up with a runoff election for the US Senate, and the balance of power in the Senate was hanging in the balance.
And so my students came to me and they said, can we register folks to vote, get folks registered to vote who hadn't been registered for the general election? And I said, go find out. Go check with the general counsel of one of these big organizations. And they did, and they said, oh, the law says we can.
And they organized and they started registering folks to vote. That was powerful, and they saw the flex of their power with that election. Black voter turnout in that runoff election was 92%.
Yes. Yeah, yeah. And that there were over 70,000 or more people who had been registered to vote between the general election and the runoff, those were students seeing the role that they could play and fully engaging.
They felt empowered. So that's how we do it, we tell that history. We model for them what that kind of engagement looks like, and then we allow them to identify the spaces where they believe that they can have impact.
Yeah. I think we were talking before we started about the narratives that people tell, like we need to make sure that the elections are fair, and that election deniers, right, so whatever narrative you're spinning. And one of the narratives I find as an educator over the last two decades is that young people don't care.
Young people don't care, that's why they don't go vote. If you've been in a high school classroom, you know they care. You just got to get them fired up. And they don't know what to do with their voice necessarily. They care about things deeply.
I just shared that we were talking about Indigenous Peoples' history in my US history class, and one of the parents is like, thank you, we're not allowed to celebrate Thanksgiving anymore. Because once the students found out what Indigenous Peoples' history was, they said, well, wait a minute. Why are we doing this?
So I think that that's one of the big things around education. And you see why there's a backlash against teaching hard history, because once you figure out what hard history is, you can't come back, right, it puts that fire. Before I have you talk, I'm being told that this is the last time to get questions up, but go ahead while I look through those questions.
So I think that one of the key pieces is the way that this history gets framed, so that it gets framed as, well, you're teaching kids to hate America. No. This is really teaching that this is an aspirational nation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident. And then what this history really lays out is how then you have people who are doing the heavy lifting of democracy to make these truths self-evident. The history of America is the history of making those aspirations real.
Where we get into trouble is when we treat those aspirations as achievements, where, OK, we have already overcome. We have handled all of this. We're done. No.
And so it is in that, understanding that aspirations and the work of people, of indigenous folk, of Latinos, of immigrants, of African Americans, of the LGBTQ community in making those aspirations real. That's what this history is about. That's what's so powerful in American history. When you hear folks say, and nowhere else is my story even possible, they're talking about those aspirations.
Thank you. Man, there's a lot of good student questions here. So I'm going to ask the student to stand up when I read this. What do you think are possible solutions to fixing polarization in the court? What are your thoughts on Merrill versus Milligan? Where is that student? There's the student. Thank you for that question.
What do I think is the possibility for dealing with polarization on the court? I think part of it is that we have to get judges who are about the law, not about the ideology. We have to expand the court.
The Supreme Court has already been packed, let's be really clear, so it's not about packing the court. It is about rebalancing the court. Yeah. I think that we have got to take, as a society-- I remember growing up just thinking that the court system and the Supreme Court, but somehow these folks who sat on high without any kind of preconceived notions or whatever, and they were just like oracles. And then I took a con law class.
And so I think it's that, as a society we have got to be much more deliberate about understanding the role of the judiciary and demanding that that judiciary really do the work. One of the things that I think has happened when we talk about polarization is the changing demographics in America. And part of what is happening with the changing demographics in America is that America is becoming much more liberal in its viewpoints about so many different issues.
When that happened, there was this kind of-- getting ready to get partisan here-- there was this kind of sense from the Republicans who had had what's called the Southern strategy, where they wooed in the Southern Democrats after 1964, and they brought that toxin of pure, uncut white supremacy into the Republican Party. And that toxin then pushed out the moderates out of the Republican Party and moved that party so far to the right that it couldn't resonate. Its policies couldn't resonate with the broad sweep of Americans.
And so what they figured out was that at a certain point with elections, no matter how many voter suppression tactics they put up, there's nothing more powerful than a people's determination to rise. I'm paraphrasing W.E.B. Du Bois there, is that you have to figure out, how do we stop the legislative branch? How do we stop the executive branch?
We do it by controlling the judicial branch that can rule on the policies, and executive orders, and whatever coming out of those other branches. That's where the polarization is right now. When you're looking at the polls, 70, 80% of Americans in terms of issues of gun safety laws, in terms of women's reproductive rights, in terms of climate change-- when you're looking at those polls, you're seeing the people want a certain type of policy.
And you keep seeing these judicial decisions that undermine and undercut that. What we're looking at is a policy construct, decisions that were made to basically capture the judiciary to be able to be this firewall against real democracy in the United States. And so it's knowing how this thing evolved and knowing how we've got to dismantle it. Yeah.
How much time do I have? I want to ask all the questions. You're not going to let me, though.
We can do 10 more minutes.
OK. We're going to go to, I think we'll go to education. At the University of Alabama, humanities classes are no longer a requirement for graduation. Whose question is this so that Dr. Anderson knows? Anyone, you want to take that question? Is this a trend you're seeing? What do you think the implications of this are?
I think it is the most apparent part of a longer trend when it comes to education. We think of education now as job training, that this is for a career. This isn't about learning, this is to get the job.
And so it's like, so what are you going to do with an English major? What kind of job are you going to get with that? What are you going to do with a philosophy major? And so it is to treat the humanities as throwaways, as, you can't get a job with that, so what good does it have?
It's treating education as technical training and not as education. And that has been a trend that we have seen for decades upon decades, and now it's just being much more explicit. It is unfortunate, because when you think about it, it is understanding what that history means when you're working on AI stuff. What is the philosophy behind that?
How do I explain this in ways that are compelling? You think about some of the best science fiction that's out there, drawing upon that literature to understand what this means, what this could possibly mean. And so being truly educated means having a real grounding in all of the fields, and being able to think critically about what we're doing, who we are as citizens, as residents, as people.
And so it is to basically shut off a key component of ourselves. It is highly unfortunate. And here I'm going, Alabama doesn't want folks to know that history.
And in addition to the history, I talk to my students about, in order for you to really have a democracy you have to be able to engage in civil discourse. But to engage in civil discourse, you have to learn how to do that. And a classroom gives you the safe space to learn, make mistakes, get that training, and go on.
So sometimes teenagers tend to want to do the debate. But what's the harder piece that's not modeled in our democracy right now is actually an exchange of ideas, and coming to a place where you understand the other person, you have empathy for the other person before you go into a voting booth. And that's what a humanities class will--
I'm a humanities teacher so I just want to keep my job, too. Thank you for that question. This is an interesting question. Student question, student, raise your hand when you hear this. Do you think having compulsory voting would increase voting access, like Australia has deployed independent voting centers so they've-- Yes.
So you know the question. Could we do this in America? Do you think that this would be good for BIPOC communities?
I have thought about this. So Australia has mandatory voting-- you got to vote. The US, Lord help us, knowing our history, what I could see is, take a place like Georgia or Ohio. So like in Ohio, what Ohio does is it says, we have early voting centers because we know people work.
And so they can't get off that Tuesday in November, but Ohio says, and so we're going to be equitable. And so we're going to have an early voting center for each county. That sounds logical.
OK, Cuyahoga County has 1.2 million people, Pickaway County has 60,000. You can see, in this nation, until we begin to unpack the systemic racism that is in this nation, what you can see happening with compulsory voting is that the barriers that are put up to be able to vote aren't equitable. You had lines in Franklin County, where Columbus is, Hamilton County, Cincinnati, and in Cuyahoga County that stretch for over a quarter of a mile to be able to vote. In Pickaway County, boom, you got in and out.
And so you begin to think through what that poll tax is on the folks who live in major urban counties, where you have had states decide to put in fewer and fewer resources to be able to vote, and then turn to those folks saying, well, you obviously don't value the vote because you didn't turn out, or you could have stood in line but you decided to leave. Yeah, so I don't see compulsory voting as working until we dismantle the racism that is in the society that has led to the kind of differential resource development and resource deployment. Yeah.
This is probably on the minds of a lot of people here. What gives you hope for the democracy in the United States?
It is multifold. One is because this is a nation that has consistently fought for democracy. When it has been challenged, when it has come up against it, when the forces of full-blown oppression are like, yeah, the forces of democracy are like, you don't know my name. And they mobilize, and they organize, and they take on that oppression. That is one of the key factors in American society.
I'm looking at, in Georgia, after the 2020 election, where there was no massive rampant voter fraud but you never would have known that. And although there have been over 60 court cases showing, no, there's no evidence of voter fraud here. Come on, man.
Georgia and other states passed voter suppression laws because they figured out, what were the mechanisms that folks use to be able to vote the way that they did and to create these barriers? So you had a switch happening, for instance, in Georgia in terms of absentee ballots. So no-excuse absentee ballots had been available in Georgia since 2005. They were overwhelmingly used by white Republicans.
During the pandemic, you saw folks of color and Democrats use absentee ballots almost 2-to-1. It was something to that effect. Could not find any fraud. But the law said, uh-uh, so Georgia passed a new law saying, oh, we're putting these new requirements on these absentee ballots to ensure that we don't have fraud. And we're getting rid of a number of drop boxes, although there was no fraud with the drop boxes.
So in Atlanta almost 90 drop boxes were removed. Not only were almost 90 drop boxes removed but their availability was curtailed. So whereas they had been outside under 24/7 surveillance, they now went inside the early election spot and were only open during office hours during early election.
And they thought, heh-heh-heh, oh. But the turnout in 2022 was, again, son, you don't know my name. I know what you're trying to do and I'm not going to let you do it. And so folks were standing in line for hours again. They were like, OK, and we can't have somebody bring up water? I'll bring my own.
And so that's where the hope is, that fire for democracy, that fire for freedom, that quest, that is there. And we see it consistently in this history. And young folk, oh, my gosh. Gen Z is not playing. Not playing.
That turnout rate for Gen Z is-- and one of the things is that voting is a habit, just like non-voting is a habit. What we're seeing with Gen Z is that the more that they're voting-- so we saw it just almost doubled in 2018. Then we saw another meteoric rise in 2020, and another meteoric rise in 2022. Oh, yeah.
And one of the things I tell my students, I was like, you are the largest demographic in the United States. You are larger than the baby boomers. If you voted at the same turnout rate as the baby boomers, you could transform this thing. And they're like, yeah.
And so that's where the hope is. It is in that ongoing historic quest for freedom, and it is the engagement of Gen Z. That's where the hope is. Yeah.
Yeah. So it's hard to go after someone like Dr. Anderson and share anything, but I am going to try to. I agree, I think students are on fire for the history that you're talking about, the scholarship you've done. Right now I'm teaching a US history course and we're switching it to a thematic rather than chronological approach, which allows you to go deeper into the content.
And so we're actually in the middle of our African American freedom movement, so as I was reading Dr. Anderson's book, I'm like, OK, maybe I should just use this as the text. But what students start to see, and particularly when I get into Reconstruction, Facing History has an amazing resource around Reconstruction, and it's truly the only moment we have a truly interracial democracy. And to be able to lay that out for students and say, this is when we got the closest.
I love what you say about aspiring. We're aspiring towards democracy and this is when we got really close, and a huge backlash came. And to start understanding, for students to understand that we're going-- it's progress, and then backlash, and then progress, and then backlash. Then they have the tools to understand, as I take those steps forward, I've got to be ready for what's going to come to push me back. And that's part of that legacy of justice that they're carrying forward.
And one of the things as I think about, sometimes you don't get to see the seeds you plant as an educator. I'm sure Mrs. Love didn't know that you'd be sitting here now in California sharing all these stories and scholarship. But in 2016, I remember the election and just being devastated. Students were devastated.
And I have two colleagues here, if Trevor can stand and Steph can stand, Trevor and Steph are the co-- yeah, they're so amazing. And Facing History actually connected us. And we said, let's get our students together.
And we had a student leadership group meeting the day after the election, and we thought, why are we going to do this? Is this a good idea? So I have students coming from San Jose, Trevor has students coming from Oakland, and Steph had students coming from Union City, and they were pretty devastated when they walked into the room. We all left feeling amazing because here are students from such diverse backgrounds that had the similar feeling and different experiences, and they were able to come together and realize, wait, if we all think this way, what kind of change are we going to be able to enact?
One of the people that was in that group was, her name was Athena. Trevor knows her very well, Athena graduated from American University with an International Relations major. And she said to me when she was graduating from Notre Dame, I never saw myself as a leader, because she was quiet. She liked to read. And usually class council elections are all the kids that like to get in front of people, and tell good jokes, and then get elected.
And Facing History gave a space for students who wanted to critically examine what was going on and cared about social justice. And she came out of American University. She's been part of political campaigns with EMILY's List, gubernatorial elections. She's, right now, in Kansas helping with some of the elections there.
She's amazing, and because of that work that we were able to do across campuses, she wasn't afraid to go into places that were so different from her. And she actually just texted me a couple of days ago to tell me she's coming home for Christmas, so I'm going to give her your book for Christmas. But anyways--
Yeah. I just want to thank you. I want to thank Facing History for this opportunity. I will tell you, my daughter was like, did you meet her yet? Did you meet her yet? Because this is what helps me to be a better teacher, to be able to take what you've taken so much of your life to create and then share it out with students, so thank you. I know all of us want to thank you as well.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, [INAUDIBLE].
So I'm thrilled to introduce Edda Collins Coleman, who's actually the reason this is even happening today. Yeah, huge round of applause for Edda. Edda is the chair of the San Francisco Advisory Board, a member of the Facing History's Board of Directors, and is on the host committee for this event.
After hearing Dr. Anderson speak in Palo Alto last spring, she spearheaded the effort to bring her to Lafayette. So thank you so much, and I'm going to turn it over to you.
Thank you. Thank you, Eran, and thank you, Dr. Anderson. What a powerful conversation. Can we just give them one more? That was beautiful.
Good evening. I am Edda Collins Coleman. As Erin mentioned, I'm Chair of the Facing History Northern California Advisory Board, and a member of the National Board of Directors. I'm also on the host committee for tonight's event. I want to say thank you one more time to my fellow host committee members and advisory board members. I appreciate your support and your partnership.
I'm proud to be here with you tonight to hear from our wonderful fireside chat with Dr. Anderson and Eran DeSilva about how urgently we need our communities, and especially our young people, to take action in order to keep our democracy strong. This is something I learned at an early age. I grew up in a small town in Springfield, Illinois, and was raised by a mother who taught me early on that education and advocacy are the only ways you can really change your trajectory in life.
At Facing History, we call that combination of education and advocacy civic participation. On Saturdays, instead of going to baseball games like the other kids, I remember canvassing for US senators with my family. Politics and advocacy were very much a part of our dinner table conversations. Those same conversations are now taking place at our dinner table.
My husband Bernard and I have three girls-- 13, 9, and 3 years old. When we moved to the Bay Area few years back, two different sets of friends said, you have to learn about Facing History. And when we did, we were absolutely blown away.
Our first introduction was at a benefit dinner. We were listening to Kobe Johnson, a high school freshman, talk about how Facing History sparked his fight to change the names of two middle schools in Palo Alto named after white supremacists. It brought tears to my eyes.
I thought of our daughters who were feeling that same spark, and all of them at home with our dinner table conversations, and car rides, the way my mother did for me. The fact that Facing History has been working tirelessly for decades to make sure teachers are equipped to educate all young people, not just in academics like math, english, and science, but with the tools and resources to fight bigotry and hatred, I just couldn't believe it. The day after the benefit dinner I sent an email to Facing History that said, we need more Facing History in the world. How can I help make that happen?
Five months later, I was on the San Francisco Bay Area Advisory Board. I joined Facing History motivated to ensure my children and other children would have access to these resources. There are moments that activate you when you see something, an injustice or wrong, and you don't have resources or even the words to be an upstander. That is what Facing History does so well.
They create resources to help talk about difficult moments in history and history in the making. Their current events resources are a lifeline for teachers and for parents. These days, when it feels like we hear about another antisemitic tweet or action almost daily, or whether it's an incident of racism, violence against the LGBTQ+ community, lies that lead to extreme polarization or bullying in our schools, Facing History is there, sending an email with resources, guiding teachers through the difficult task of talking about it with their students.
The Bay Area is a beautifully diverse and progressive place, but no place is safe from the undercurrent of negativity and hatred that is getting louder and growing by the second. Thanks to Facing History, teachers, students, and families are now equipped and empowered with the tools to effectively create positive learning, moments out of something very painful. The only way to change these things, as we've heard tonight, and as I learned from my own mother, is through education and activism, through civic participation.
We can change these things with Facing History by teaching our young people how to think critically, to connect their academics to their own experiences, to be upstanders, not bystanders. Facing History is leading the way to building a society of people who care about one another, who stand up for one another, who are guided by a moral compass. As a parent, as a citizen of the community, and as a staunch believer in our democracy, I'm asking you now to support Facing History with me.
Our goal tonight is to reach $100,000 so we can bring Facing History into more classrooms in our community here and throughout Northern California. Making a gift tonight will help more teachers like Eran, and more schools like Notre Dame High School. And most importantly, it will help more students discover what they can do as upstanders, hearing from these students here today with their wonderful questions.
So please join me in making a gift tonight. If we raise $29,000 tonight, we'll reach our goal. And to help jumpstart us, a board member has generously offered a matching gift of $10,000. In other words, the first $10,000 that you donate tonight will be doubled. So let's go.
Pull out your phone and I'll tell you two ways to make a donation. On your program card here you will find a QR code on the very back, which will take you directly to our donation page. You can make a gift with a credit card there, or you can text the word "give," G-I-V-E, to 1-844-324-9499, and you will receive a link to donate. Once again, text the word "give," G-I-V-E, to 1-844-324-9499.
This number is also in your program card. Texting the number will send you back a link. You'll click the link to get our donation page. Please raise your hand if you need assistance and someone from our team will help you.
If you prefer to donate by cash or check, please find a Facing History staff member who is standing by the table on your way out. They will help you with your gift. Now we'll just give everyone a moment, wait a few seconds for you to pull out your card, use your phone, QR code, text, raise your hand.
I see phones out. This is great. I'm a mom, I have no problem being patient. Thank you all so much for joining together to inspire the next generation of students and teachers.
I hope you're all as charged up as I was at my first Facing History event. I invite you to stay involved and help bring Facing History to more students. Keep an eye out for an email from Facing History tomorrow that'll show ways to stay engaged.
You're welcome to stay here tonight for about 15 more minutes to mingle, talk to a staff member or a board member. We'd love to get to know you. Thank you so very much for being here, and good night.
Thank you, that was wonderful. That was wonderful.