Learning about the historical traditions of social change movements is critical for today’s students. Students need social justice role models to understand what has changed as a result of people’s organized and individual efforts over time. Students need to learn from the successes and challenges of past movements in order to know that change is not only possible but that they, too, can be change agents. When exposed to the depth and breadth of activist histories – histories of which they usually have little to no knowledge of – students start to think more critically about their own education. They begin to consider what narratives they have been taught and what/who have been left out. They begin to question, in the words of Ronald Takaki, the “master narrative” of U.S. history. They not only become inspired by the successes and challenges of past movements, but also seek more knowledge about how to effectively engage in social activism themselves.

Document Type

Post-print Article

Publication Date

Fall 2008

Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2008 Duke University Press. This article first appeared in Radical History Review 2008, no. 102 (Fall 2008): 63-72. doi:10.1215/01636545-2008-013.

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