Stories matter. The stories we tell have the power to effect history. By sharing stories with students, we help them to see themselves as part of the human story, as individuals who can change the narrative by making positive choices and contributing to their communities and the world.
Each year, Facing History and Ourselves and Knights and Daughters of Vartan host an annual Armenian Genocide Commemoration Essay Contest. In 2014, the contest asked high school and college students across the United States to respond to the question, “On the threshold of the 100th anniversary, how should the world recognize the Armenian Genocide?” This essay, from Facing History student Elizabeth Ray, took second place. It was reprinted with Elizabeth's permission.
In several areas of the United States, April is recognized as Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month.
Here are four classroom resources you can use in April, or any time of year, to introduce your students to specific moments in world history while encouraging them to consider the behaviors—such as prejudice, stereotyping, and conformity—that contribute to the proliferation of violence today.
I am not Armenian.
I did not grow up learning about the Armenian Genocide.
I attended schools in two of the best public school districts in Southern California and achieved not just an undergraduate degree, but two master's degrees. I had been teaching for several years before I ever learned about the Armenian Genocide.
Mass media played a pivotal role in saving lives during the Armenian Genocide and can serve as a reminder of the power people can have when they join together.
For the month of April, a large banner draped over the Bay Bridge draws the attention of 250,000 drivers to the Armenian Genocide each day. On my commute to work, I asked two passengers in my rideshare if they knew about the Armenian Genocide.
In September 1939, just before the invasion of Poland and the beginning of the Nazi Holocaust, Adolf Hitler asked his generals, “Who today still speaks of the massacre of the Armenians?”
This month marks 100 years since the start of the Armenian Genocide. This event raises important questions. How do historical events influence our identity and our perception of the "other"? Why do genocides frequently take place under the cover of war? What choices do individuals, groups, and nations have when responding to genocide and other instances of mass violence?