Here at Facing History, we see awareness months as opportunities to deepen our knowledge of and attention to key histories and related areas of contemporary concern. However, the focus on these issues during one particular month can further marginalize the very concerns we aim to elevate. With this in mind, what follows is an invitation to engage with important themes raised by Global Human Rights Month in December and throughout all of the months of the year.
These titles cover significant thematic ground including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; global calls for reparations; connections between children’s rights and human rights; the relationship between ecocide and genocide; and the essential question of how to teach students about human rights.
Members of our staff are exploring these titles in an effort to deepen our engagement with new scholarship and we invite you to explore them alongside us and share your learnings in the comments. Below are excerpts from each book’s publisher:
“The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is one of the most important and debated sociopolitical documents of the twentieth century. A leading authority on the UDHR, Johannes Morsink...has now written a volume for a new generation of human rights students and activists, one that presents an article-by-article account of the formulation of each article in the UDHR… Throughout the book, Morsink explains how this 1948 iconic text can help us in the twenty-first century. He shows us the high moral ground we need to fight evils perpetuated during and after World War II that now present themselves in new garb and does so in a clear and concise manner.” —University of Pennsylvania Press
“In this sweeping international perspective on reparations, Time for Reparations makes the case that past state injustice—be it slavery or colonization, forced sterilization or widespread atrocities—has enduring consequences that generate ongoing harm, which needs to be addressed as a matter of justice and equity. Time for Reparations provides a wealth of detailed and diverse examples of state injustice, from enslavement of African Americans in the United States and Roma in Romania to colonial exploitation and brutality in Guatemala, Algeria, Indonesia, Jamaica, and Guadeloupe. From many vantage points, contributing authors discuss different reparative strategies and the impact they would have on the lives of survivor or descendant communities.” —University of Pennsylvania Press
“This compelling account of Kevin Boyle’s life and work is a remarkable tale of how a taxi driver’s son from Northern Ireland inspired the human rights movement around the world… He was a co-founder of the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) and the People’s Democracy, mediated during the 1981 hunger strikes and helped forge the basis for the agreement that ended the Troubles… Through a series of landmark cases at the European Court of Human Rights, he left an enduring mark on international human rights law… Though he was a towering figure, his personal story is not well known. Now, based on years of research, thousands of documents, and scores of interviews, former CNN correspondent Mike Chinoy has crafted the compelling life story of a remarkable Irishman.” —The Lilliput Press
“Over the past five decades, both peace education and human rights education have emerged distinctly and separately as global fields of scholarship and practice. Promoted through multiple efforts (the United Nations, civil society, grassroots educators), both of these fields consider content, processes, and educational structures that seek to dismantle various forms of violence, as well as move towards cultures of peace, justice and human rights. Educating for Peace and Human Rights... introduces students and educators to the challenges and possibilities of implementing peace and human rights education in diverse global sites.” —Bloomsbury Academic
“In 1973, Hillary Rodham Clinton famously stated that ‘children's rights’ is a slogan in search of a definition, used to bolster various arguments for peace and for specific rights, but without any coherent conception of children as political beings. In 1989, the United Nations established the basis for this definition in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), a document every nation in the world, save the United States, has ratified. Still, human rights theorists, scholars, and jurists continue to disagree as to the theoretical justification for children's human rights. In Suffer the Children, Richard P. Hiskes establishes the first substantive theoretical foundation for the human rights of children. As Hiskes argues, recognizing the rights of children fundamentally alters the meaning and usefulness of human rights in a global context… Hiskes provides a new critical assessment of the United Nations CRC and explores child activism for human rights worldwide—in courts, on social networks, and in public demonstrations—to show how children are already claiming their rights in ways that will fundamentally change the meaning both of rights themselves and of democratic processes.” —Oxford University Press
“The environmental infrastructure that sustains human societies has been a target and instrument of war for centuries, resulting in famine and disease, displaced populations, and the devastation of people’s livelihoods and ways of life. Scorched Earth traces the history of scorched earth, military inundations, and armies living off the land from the sixteenth to the twentieth century, arguing that the resulting deliberate destruction of the environment― 'environcide'―constitutes total war and is a crime against humanity and nature… Shedding light on the premodern origins and the lasting consequences of total war, Scorched Earth explains why ecocide and genocide are not separate phenomena, and why international law must recognize environmental warfare as a violation of human rights.” —Princeton University Press
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Facing History on Martin Luther King Day: A message to our educators
Martin Luther King Day is a moment for reflection and service; for considering the life and legacy of an extraordinary individual; and for recommitting ourselves to the unfinished work he championed. At a time of extraordinary bigotry and violence, Dr. King challenged all Americans to confront our history of racial discrimination, to open our eyes to injustice, and to be intentional about building a better future.
Here are 9 Facing History resources that can help you reflect on your own teaching practices, teach the history of the Civil Rights Movement, and explore contemporary issues around racial justice and democracy in the United States.
Like many people of my generation who cut their teeth on the critical insights of bell hooks, news of her passing in December unleashed a wave of reflection for me about the ways she’s impacted me as a person and public scholar. Beyond the many moments of resonance I experienced while reading her writings over the years, her impact on me is most powerfully encapsulated in an experience I had in 2008 when I met her.
The 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) that took place in Glasgow, Scotland from October to November 2021 was, in many ways, a historic event. However, even though the COP remains a crucial space for international cooperation in the fight against climate disaster, there is notable consternation over the unique burdens that various policies may place on poorer nations and those most vulnerable to adverse climate events.
The approaches that Black leaders have embraced across space and time are numerous and have encompassed assimilationist and integrationist conceptions of social change, alongside contrasting approaches rooted in Black self-determination and nationalism.
Learning about the larger systems and historical events that have played central roles in shaping Black history is vitally important, but it is also valuable to explore the individual lives, ideas, choices, and legacies of key figures in that unfolding story.
During Universal Human Rights Month, in December, we invite you to use any of these Teaching Ideas grounded in social-emotional learning (SEL) that provide ample social and historical context while being concise and easy to integrate into your classroom conversations.
In January, the nation stood still as we learned that renowned actor Sidney Poitier passed away at 94 years old. Poitier was both an actor and an activist—and despite a mixed array of perspectives over the years on the ways that he represented Black people in film—he undoubtedly played a leading role in African Americans’ fight for civil rights and more positive media representations from the silver screen to the streets.
Some members of the Facing History staff are exploring these five new books published within the last year, and we invite you to explore them alongside us and share your reactions with us. These 5 titles cover essential topics from Black history with young audiences and address contemporary experiences of young Black people.