Guest Blogger: Isis Ferguson, Jane Addams Hull-House Museum Program Coordinator
History does not happen to us. We are the actors. We can be the discoverers and interpreters as well. We can and must make meaning and draw connections across time, social movements and communities. 10 Chicago Freedom School (CFS) Freedom Fellows are engaged in some history making of their own this summer with Not in the Yearbooks (NITY), an innovative project of History Moves.
History Moves is a public history project designed to engage community organizations and neighborhood groups in the process of imagining, collecting, and curating underexplored histories of Chicago; and then place that co-curated work in a mobile gallery space that exposes new and underserved city audiences to the history.
Not in the Yearbooks brings together UIC faculty, staff, students and the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, with a dozen young adults who are alumni of the Chicago Freedom School’s Freedom Fellows program, and library and information specialists at the Read/Write Library to produce a digital archive and web-based display of Chicago’s history of public school reform in the postwar period from a student perspective. Not in the Yearbooks begins from the idea that students have a historical perspective on the most recent past, and are capable of capturing the historical perspectives of adults who were once students in area-schools.
Between May 2013 and August 2013 the Freedom Fellows will learn to collect, interpret, and exhibit first person narratives and material culture related to school reform. They will perform two oral histories each: one with a current high school student and one with a current or retired teacher or administrator who was a Chicago Public School student.
Most public discussions of public schooling in Chicago make no effort to engage students as agents of change. Because CFS is built on the idea that history aids students in becoming leaders, having fellows capture the history of student experience in Chicago will animate CFS’s work in ways that further amplify how the experiences of young people are central to understanding both social inequality and social justice.
An impressive 63 educators responded to the call to share their stories with the Freedom Fellows. What narratives will unfold from the interviews? What meaning or memory is bound up in objects or material culture saved by former students or teachers? What new voices or new interpretations will be uncovered in the conversations? These Freedom Fellows are sharp and these educators are eager to share- a winning combination. Stay tuned!