Friday, July 24, 2009

Connecting Young People and Our Civil Rights History: Selma Historian/Guide Joanne Bland and Milwaukee filmmaker Scott Rivera

On the July 26, 2009 Forward Forum:

Click to Hear Archived Show

Guests Joanne Bland and Scott Rivera (inset photos) join us for a very special edition of our show, to discuss their joint participation in Scott's 2008 documentary, Exact Change, which chronicles the journey of 25 Milwaukee high school students to the civil rights sites of the Deep South. An adult chaperone on a life-changing bus trip sponsored by the Milwaukee-based Nehemiah Project, Scott documented the trip and the experiences of these young people in his remarkable film. This includes capturing the fascinating interchange that occurs between Selma to Montgomery March veteran Joanne Bland and that group of young people, as she challenges them to fully engage and relate to a history with profound ongoing relevance to their lives.

All of this was recently discussed by Scott on a September 2008 episode of Wisconsin Public TV's Director's Cut, with host Charles Monroe-Kane, who, in turn shared his impressions with us about the film and Ms. Bland on the June 5, 2009 Forward Forum.

Although she's based out of her hometown of Selma, Alabama, Joanne Bland is among our most frequent and favorite visitors to Forward Forum. She is a much-respected oral historian, who describes in compelling detail her memories as an 11-year-old attending the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March. (At that young age, she had already been arrested 13 times as a result of her participation in non-violent civil rights protests. To hear her story, follow this link to her interview with Amy Goodman, recorded in 2005, on the 40th anniversary of the march.) That historic march began bathed in the blood of its non-violent participants at the hands of Gov. George Wallace's Alabama state troupers in shocking scenes broadcast nationwide, ultimately drawing allies from across the country and world, proving to be the catalyst for the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, later that year.

In August of 2006, Forward Forum broadcast live from Selma's National Voting Rights Museum, which Ms. Bland co-founded. She is a frequent visitor to Madison and Wisconsin, thanks to a relationship forged almost a decade ago with the UW-Madison, and parallel relationship in Milwaukee, forged after her participation in a conference entitled, "Milwaukee: the Selma of the North." Resonant with the journey depicted in the film, countless UW-Madison students have traveled to Selma, to experience firsthand the history of this place central to the civil rights and voting rights struggles. And yet few people in the greater Madison community are aware of that relationship, or have benefited from it. That's something we're working to change.

Milwaukee native and UW-Madison alumni Scott Rivera is a media producer for Leaping Frog Productions, and has worked in film, documentary and television production since 1994. Scott's projects include School Takeover: A Case Study in Compton, CA (54 min., documentary) and Exact Change (66 min. documentary). Scott is a segment producer for Milwaukee Public Television, and his production experience includes broadcast television, corporate media, and work on feature films in Los Angeles.

He describes Exact Change as follows: "For many Milwaukee youth, our nation’s fight for civil rights is a far-off story told through a handful of black and white photographs, ending with the words, 'I have a dream.' But that perception [was] about to change for a select group of Milwaukee teens.

"Exact Change follows twenty-five Milwaukee high school students on a civil rights bus tour through Atlanta, Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Memphis. The story
shows how a first-hand look at the struggle for civil rights impacts the students, and how the experience changes their attitudes and approaches toward race relations."

[At left: a young man, also pictured above, who seems initially disinterested about Ms. Bland's presentation, is called out by Ms. Bland, and temporarily leaves his classmates, heading back to the bus. Filmmaker Rivera, also a chaperone, steps out of his filmmaker role, and engages him in conversation. Subsequently, the young man not only apologizes to Ms. Bland, but also leads the group in marching across the historic Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the Selma to Montgomery March began.]

Is the history of the civil rights movement merely a passing curiosity, or does it still have an important role to play in the lives of today's young people? In a week when issues of race and history are looming large in the face of the controversy over President Obama's reaction to the Cambridge police's alleged mistreatment of distinguished Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates, it's a question well worth asking.

Please join us for this week's edition of Forward Forum, and please join in our conversation by calling us at 608-321-1670.

Courtesy of the Veoh website (brief free registration process may be required), the 66 minute documentary Exact Change can be viewed online. See also this short report on the film by WISN-TV's Mike Gousha.

Recently "retired" from her post as co-founder and longtime executive director of the National Voting Rights Museum, Ms. Bland continues to speak at venues across the country, and conducts civil rights-themed tours, featuring her participatory and compelling narratives, for people of all ages and background through an organization called Journeys for the Soul; email: Her next visit to Madison has been tentatively scheduled for late February of 2010.

Below: Ms. Bland marches across Selma's historic Edmund Pettus Bridge in March of 2007 in the company of then presidential candidate Barack Obama, and civil rights movement leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery (who delivered the keynote at Madison's 2008 King Day celebration, and the closing prayer at Obama's 2009 inauguration). Both candidate Obama and his then-opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton (see wider shot, pictured at right with former president Bill Clinton), delivered emotion-filled speeches during their respective pilgrimages to Selma at that time. During that visit, Obama broke away from a black tie dinner, to spend three hours one-on-one with Ms. Bland at the National Voting Rights Museum, reveling in the history of a movement that made his historic run for the presidency a possibility.

More ripples from the Wisconsin to Selma Connection.

Ms. Bland's most recent visit to Madison was in January, which dovetailed with her appearance as King Day keynote speaker at Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee (a role she also performed last year at Beloit College). The illustration below, from the Cardinal Stritch website, is symbolic of the resonance between Ms. Bland's visit, and the historic inauguration of the nation's first black president, which occurred the next day.

Photo from August of 2006 with Ms. Bland (below at left) with fellow Selma to Montgomery march veterans Lawrence and Dorothea Huggins. Back row: Rev. Darrel Richey, pastor of Madison's James Reeb Unitarian Universalist congregation, and Forward Forum host John Quinlan. Richey and Quinlan helped conduct a half dozen interviews with several of the "untold heros and heroines" of the civil rights struggle. Richey's congregation is named for a former U.U. pastor, an ally who was martyred during the weeks preceding the march, and upon his return to Madison, Rev. Richey continues to speak out about this important history.

John Quinlan has maintained an ongoing supportive friendship with Ms. Bland, providing technical and financial support for her work and for associated oral history projects, and inviting her back to his radio show on numerous occasions to comment on the resonance of history with the 2008 presidential election. After rendez-vousing with Ms. Bland in Atlanta, he returned with her to Selma in August of 2008, where they watched Barack Obama's nomination at the Democratic National Convention together in her home. Ms. Bland, in turn, was in Madison during the inauguration, and Rev. Richey and Quinlan were privileged to view that historic occasion together with her. As noted above, while Ms. Bland has spoken extensively to UW-Madison students to powerful effect, and in venues throughout the Milwaukee community through a decade of visits, only a relative handful of people in the non-university greater Madison community have heard her powerful message--something that we hope to change in months to come.

Highlights of Past Forward Forum shows with Joanne Bland (more to be posted shortly):

August 25, 2006
Forward Forum host John Quinlan broadcasts live from the National Voting Rights Museum, with its co-founder and then executive director (she retired from this position after 15 years in April 2007), Joanne Bland. Ms. Bland takes listeners on a guided walking tour of the museum in the second hour. After an introductory segment with Ms. Bland, we're joined by Spencer Overton, author of "Stealing Democracy: The New Politics of Voter Suppression." Laura Gutknecht anchors from back in Madison, in the company of former museum intern and UW grad student Tyina Steptoe (who has since finished her PhD, and now lives in Seattle). Then in our third hour, we interview Howard Bayliss, the president of the LGBT rights group, "Equality Alabama," and summarize our show with commentaries by the Rev. Darrel Richey (also on the ground in Selma), Laura, Tyina and John. See also: Texas native Tyina Steptoe's outstanding blog about her several month-long internship in Selma, and its cross-cultural revelations, Lone Star in Selma .

Nov. 4, 2007
Joanne is joined by Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison Comm Arts professor Sue Zaeske and students Mary Carter, Charles Hughes, Mobolaji Falomo, and Alan Pietrowicz. The students share the life-changing nature of their trips to Selma, where they were guided on a tour of history by Ms. Bland while also helping to capture that history through a variety of hands-on projects. interviews.

Other links to stories about Joanne Bland, and related recent events in Selma:

Baylor University Magazine

Selma to Montgomery National Historic Site Interview

Eastern Mennonite University

University of Wisconsin-Madison press release chronicling a 2002 trip to Madison in the company of other civil rights leaders

UW-Madison release about a 2004 Chadbourne Residency Program's civil rights event, and Ms. Bland's particiption

October 29, 2002 UW-Madison Daily Cardinal article

October 29, 2002 UW-Madison Badger Herald article

New York Times video presentation, with an interview with Ms. Bland, following the Nov. 2008 election

New York Times March 2007 article on visit of Senators Obama and Clinton to Selma

Friday, July 17, 2009

Supporting Young Community Leaders: Amy Mondloch from Grassroots Leadership College and Natalia Thompson from Madison SOS (Speak Out, Sisters!)

Click to Listen to Archived Show

Our focus on the July 19, 2009 Forward Forum is on programs that support leadership of young people in our community. Natalia Thompson joins us from "Madison SOS (Speak Out, Sister!)," (photo above) a teen-led organization uniting high school teen girls in grassroots leadership and action for social change. Also joining us is Amy Mondloch, executive director of the "The Grassroots Leadership College," (photos below) which supports the development of grassroots leaders by building skills and relationships in a supportive and challenging environment.

Both Madison SOS and The Grassroots Leadership College are characterized by their inter-generational approach to community organizing. While adult mentors are invaluable in helping young leaders learn the ropes, these programs also emphasize a two-way, interactive approach: one in which community organizers of older generations also learn valuable lessons from young people. One of our favorite discussions on Forward Forum involves an ongoing theme--the need for older, more established community organizers to honor an environment in which diverse new voices are also heard. Often, without meaning to, established community leaders end up adopting a tone that's condescending or paternalistic when working with young people, and ways need to be found to transform that dynamic.

Photos: Natalia Thompson and Amy Mondloch

An important part of the mission of both Madison SOS and Grassroots Leadership College is to create a dynamic that allows young people to actually claim the mantle of leadership in an environment where their voices are being heard and their leadership roles are actively acknowledged, and where there's a supportive framework in which their often innovative new ideas can take the form of action.

There are many ways that you can help both groups to achieve their goals.

The Grassroots Leadership College is currently recruiting adult mentors for its 2009-2010 program year, aiming to bring new people on board by an Aug. 3rd deadline. GLC is also looking ahead to a fun-filled September 13th fundraiser as they seek out help in setting the world's record for the Largest Hula Hooped Ever Hooped! All of this resonant with its statement of purpose: "Everyone a Learner. Everyone a Teacher. Everyone a Leader."

Madison SOS is launching a city-wide initiative to gather girls’ opinions and stories on the issues that matter to them. A key component of the initiative is an online survey entitled, “Speak Out! A Survey on the Issues Affecting Your Life."

If you're a local high-school-age teenage girl, or know someone who is, please follow this link to The Speak-Out Survey.

Natalia Thompson founded Madison SOS in early 2007, when she was a sophomore at West High School. (She is now a Yale-bound recent graduate of West.) Over the past two years, Madison SOS has connected teen girls of diverse backgrounds through grassroots leadership development, activism, discussion forums, citizen advocacy, and community-based art. Each Madison SOS initiative highlights local social justice issues affecting Madison girls and young women.


Grassroots Leadership College is a training program to help the Madison area residents improve the quality of life in their neighborhoods and communities.

GLC supports developing grassroots leaders by providing the opportunity to build skills and relationships in a supportive and challenging environment.

General Semester: How to Enroll as An Adult Coach/Mentor (Deadline Aug. 3rd)

The general semester is the cornerstone of the Grassroots Leadership College's work. It combines coach/ developing leader and project based models of community organizing education to create a powerful learning experience. Coaches and developing leaders take part in class together. Talented faculty draw participants into sessions in which they not only learn, but also share with and teach each other.

Outside of class sessions coaches and leaders meet to work on project of the developing leaders design. Coaches provide a listening ear and help the leader develop the project idea into reality.

For more information on the commitment involved, and sense of the rewards of developing a coaching relationship with a young community leader, contact Amy Mondloch at the Grassroots Leadership College, 1321 E. Mifflin St., Suite 201, Madison, WI 53703 | Phone: (608) 441-0085. E-mail:

Link to Application

Link to Semester Calendar/Schedule for this activities involved with your commitment

Sept. 13th Hula Hoopla Event Hightlights


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, July 10, 2009
CONTACT: Natalia Thompson, Madison SOS Project Coordinator
608.320.3882 or


Great Summertime Opportunity
for Girls to Make a Difference

MADISON — Madison SOS (Speak Out, Sister!), a teen-led organization uniting high school teen girls in grassroots leadership and action for social change, is launching a city-wide initiative to gather girls’ opinions and stories on the issues that matter to them. A key component of the initiative – an online survey entitled, “Speak Out! A Survey on the Issues Affecting Your Life” – goes live today.

Madison SOS was founded in early 2007 by Natalia Thompson, then a sophomore at West High School. Over the past two years, Madison SOS has connected teen girls of diverse backgrounds through grassroots leadership development, activism, discussion forums, citizen advocacy, and community-based art. Each Madison SOS initiative highlights local social justice issues affecting Madison girls and young women.

This summer, Madison SOS is leading the creation of a Platform for Action on six key issues Madison teen girls face, including civic engagement, mental health, school climate, and sexual health. In order to explore girls’ perceptions of these issues, Madison SOS hopes to reach a representative sample of over three hundred teen girls through “Speak Out! A Survey on the Issues Affecting Your Life.” The survey places a special emphasis on students’ experiences accessing community resources and on their
ideas about solutions to current problems relating to these issues. Ultimately, the Platform for Action will be used to advocate for policies and programs that best address the needs of Madison teen girls.

Teen girls who attended a Madison high school in the 2008-2009 school year are eligible to complete the survey. Upon completing the survey, participants will be offered the opportunity to participate in a random drawing for an iPod Touch. The survey is online at

“Speak Out! A Survey on the Issues Affecting Your Life” is an initiative funded by the Case Foundation of Washington, D.C., which empowers citizens to identify and promote grassroots solutions to community issues. Madison SOS has also partnered with GKA Research of Madison to develop the survey and analyze results. Past Madison SOS initiatives have been co-sponsored by the ACLU of Wisconsin, the Girl Scouts of WI – Badgerland Council, the Grassroots Leadership College, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Women’s Network, the YWCA of Madison, and grassroots community groups.

Leaders of Madison SOS state: "We believe that girls’ voices matter. We believe that girls deserve to have a say in the decisions that impact their lives. And we believe that girls have the power to affect change."


On a program where the focus is on the difference that young people's contributions can make to our community, we'd be remiss not to note that guest Natalia Thompson epitomizes the potential impact that one committed young person can have on her community. Natalia is about to embark on a new adventure, having earned the right to one of a handful of coveted spots at Yale University. Listeners to our show will remember her appearance last year, in the company of School board president Arlene Silveira and School Board Member Lucy Mathiak, advocating from a student perspective about why passage of a school referendum was essential to a quality education.

A basic google search for Natalie in Madison's print media archives in the past several years shows a high school career full of accomplishment and extensive community service.

This short article below, reproduced from the website of the National ACLU, is a great illustration of the common thread that has woven itself through all of her community organizing work and writings. That's the belief that young people--and young women and girls in particular--too often go unheard regarding the issues of central importance to their own lives. In a brief but intense high school career, Natalia has done much to reverse that invisibility, and to take substantive action on the road to making bring youth perspectives front and center in our community dialogue. As someone on the cusp of adulthood, who knows what great things lie ahead for her. However, there's little doubt that this belief in young people--and the importance of older generations giving them the space and the support necessary for them to make their own way, and find their own voice--is something that Natalia is likely to carry with her in all of the accomplishments that lay ahead. It's an honor to have the opportunity to speak with her this week on Forward Forum.

March 17, 2009
Lead Story on the Website of the National ACLU
2009 Youth Activist Scholarship Winners

Friday, July 10, 2009

Events Promoting Equality for All: Madison Equal Opp'ties Comm. Picnic; OutReach Awards Banquet; RIOT ACTS Performance

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It's one of those happening weeks for special events in Madison.... in this case, several remarkable events celebrating our diversity:

* Madison Equal Opportunities Commission Potluck/Picnic, A Celebration of Diversity, 5-7 pm, Thursday, July 16th in the Warner Park Shelter. (If possible, call 266-4910 to RSVP and tell staff what kind of dish you'll be bringing.) Free and all are welcome!

* OutReach Annual Awards Dinner. Friday, July 17th, Monona Terrace Convention Center. 5:30 reception, 6:30 dinner; 7:00 program. $60 or $110 for couples. Call 255-8582 for tickets; deadline officially passed on July 10th, but call OutReach as early in the week as possible to see if they can accommodate you.

* RIOT ACTS: A Commemoration of Stonewall. A collaborative project of StageQ, Proud Theater and Perfect Harmony Men’s Chorus. July 16, 17, and 18 on the Drury Stage of the Bartell Theatre, 113 East Mifflin Street. Go to for more info.

Our show this week will feature guests involved with these three remarkable community-building events. Further details of each event below:

Madison Equal Opportunities Commission
Summer Celebration of Diversity Picnic

Please join us this Thursday, July 16th, beginning at 5pm, at the Warner Park Shelter (pictured immediately below). Warner Park is on Madison's northside, just southwest of the intersection of N. Sherman Ave., and Northport Drive. To find the shelter, drive toward the center of the Park from the entrance on either of these streets.
The event is a community potluck, featuring dishes that are family favorites or reminiscent of a person's native culture. Please contribute, if possible, but know that there's always plenty of food, if making a spontaneous decision to attend. The event begins at 5pm, with a brief program and award ceremony at 6pm.

Each year, an outstanding community leader is recognized for their outstanding contributions to the cause of civil rights, with the James C. Wright Award (named for the MEOC's beloved founder and first director). This year's recipient is Darlene Hancock, who was the Madison Metropolitan School District's first African-American female principal. (Mrs. Hancock, who was married for 50 years to Alan Hancock, is the mother of one son, grandmother of two, and a great-grandmother. She retired in 1996.) She was also instrumental in the founding of several community organizations, including LINKS, Alpha Kappa Alpha's Kappa Si Omega chapter, and the S.S. Morris A.M.E. Church. She continues to play an active role in these organizations, and others, such as the Genesis Development Corporation.

OutReach's 17th Annual Community Awards Banquet

OutReach, Madison’s and south central Wisconsin’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center has announced their 2009 Community Awards Recipients. The Awards will be presented at their 17th Annual Banquet on the evening of Friday, July 17th at the Monona Terrace Convention Center in Madison.

The OutReach Awards Banquet is the organization's primary annual fundraising event. It showcases the services of OutReach and honors the contributions of individuals, community members, and organizations that support our mission “to promote equality and quality of life issues for LGBT people”.

Photos of some of the evening's hosts and awardees: Gary Hollander, Joann Elder, Dick Wagner, Jeanne Marshall, William Wartmann, Gov. Jim Doyle, "The Raging Grannies," and State Rep. Mark Pocan. (Our apologies--photos of several other awardees could not be located as of deadline.)

* Governor Jim Doyle is the recipient of the 2009 Courage Award, which is given for a unique or profound accomplishment advancing equality for LGBT people. Governor Doyle is receiving the honor for his successful effort to include a state-wide domestic partnership registry and selected benefits in the recently passed State budget. His leadership makes Wisconsin the first state in the Upper Midwest to grant such benefits.

* This year's Woman of the Year is Jane Boyd, a long time lesbian activist, for her pioneering work in starting and maintaining Lizards, a social network for lesbian-identified women over 30. The group has been in existence for decades, and focuses on potluck dinners to build a sense of community, particularly for rural women.

* The 2009 Man of the Year is Gary Hollander, the Executive Director of Diverse & Resilient, a Milwaukee-based LGBT capacity building organization. Through his leadership and passionate work of over 25 years, Mr. Hollander has made a significant and on-going contribution to underserved groups, LGBT community centers, state-wide public health, and individual well-being.

* SSBL is the 2009 Organization of the Year. This award goes to a business, non-profit, or community group that makes a notable effort toward the advancement of LGBT equality and quality of life. SSBL, Madison’s first LGBT inclusive sports organization, has a history of not only promoting social interaction through its baseball events, but also of building community through co-operative support of other LGBT sporting leagues and raising money for deserving groups in the greater Madison area.

* Jeanne Marshall is the 2009 OutReach Ally of the Year. This award goes to a person that does not identify as LGBT, and has shown substantial private and public support for LGBT people and causes, during the past year or over the course of their life. Ms. Marshall has a long and proud resume on behalf of the LGBT community, including an extensive role in the AIDS Network ACT Ride, Proud Theater, OutReach, First Congregational United Church of Christ, and AIDS Memorial Quilt Project.

* The OutReach Volunteer of the Year for 2009 is Roger Hansen. This is an award for extraordinary service and commitment to OutReach in a volunteer capacity over a period of time. Mr. Hansen’s long and intensive involvement in our Speaker’s Bureau and coming out support group facilitation demonstrates the impact that one volunteer can have on many lives.

* Donna Wess and Linda Lenzke will be honored with a Special Recognition Award from the OutReach Board of Directors for their determined work in building the most successful women’s’ group in OutReach history, Women4Women. This award is given selectively for contributions by individuals, groups, and entities that contribute significantly to the quality of life of the LGBT communities. In less than a year, these two individuals took an idea by visionary community member and turned it into a vibrant, inclusive group for women who love women.

* A Special Recognition Award by the OutReach Board of Directors will also be presented to William Wartmann for his outstanding philanthropic activity, especially to LGBT community groups. In addition to his long time and generous support of many local LGBT organizations such as GSA for Safe Schools, OutReach, Frontiers, and New Harvest Foundation, Mr. Wartmann has also been a substantial benefactor of arts, health, religious and ethnic organizations in our area.

For more information on or to order tickets for the 2009 OutReach Awards Banquet Dinner on July 17th, please call Harry or Steve at 608-255-8582 or e-mail at Official deadline for dinner reservations was Friday, July 10th, but we recommend that you call OutReach early in the day on Monday to see if they can accommodate you.

RIOT ACTS: A Commemoration of Stonewall
A Collaboration Between Stage Q, Proud Theater and Perfect Harmony

StageQ, Proud Theater and Perfect Harmony Men’s Chorus are proud to announce ‘RIOT ACTS, A Commemoration of Stonewall’. RIOT ACTS will be performed July 16, 17, and 18 on the Drury Stage of the Bartell Theatre, 113 East Mifflin Street. An original play with music from the era, RIOT ACTS was written collaboratively by StageQ, Perfect Harmony and Proud Theater. Kyle Richmond and John Steines are the principle authors, with assistance from Tara Ayres, Callen Harty, Brian Wild and the cast of RIOT ACTS. The show is directed by StageQ Artistic Director Tara Ayres, with music direction by Ken Forney, Perfect Harmony’s Music Director, and accompanied by Ken Kusiak, Perfect Harmony’s Assistant Music Director.

The cast includes Mark Albright, Ed Anderson, Marc Gofstein, Shaina Langlois, Travis McCormick, Chuck Mielke, Bob Moore, Sarah Newport, Dana Pellebon, Kyle Richmond, Jane Schneider, Steve Spera, John Steines, Louise Stout, Josh Swalheim, Alex Szele, Laura Varela, Erik Weinke, Adam Williams, Jessica Jane Witham and Kristina Zins, with additional choral support from Keith Eccarius, RDell Johnson, Matt Lanburg, and Rod Ziegler.

RIOT ACTS follows a core cast of characters whose lives intersect at the Stonewall Riots of 1969. On June 28, 1969, riots began at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, following a routine police raid. Continuing for three days, the Stonewall Riots are commonly considered the birth of the contemporary gay rights movement in the United States. With music, comedy, drama and satire, RIOT ACTS should entertain audiences of all ages.

For more information and to reserve tickets, go to or call 608-661-9696, ext. 3.
Above: Principal Authors Kyle Richmond and John Steines (Perfect Harmony), contributing author Callen Harty (for Proud Theater), Director Tara Ayres (Stage Q Artistic Director), and contributing author Brian Wild (Proud Theater Artistic Director), and logos of collaborating organizations Stage Q, Proud Theater, and Perfect Harmony.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ray Raphael, Author of "Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation"

Click to Listen to archived show

On this Fourth of July weekend, have you thought back fondly on the history you learned in school about the American Revolution? Well, suffice to say, that much of what you learned may be inaccurate, or woefully incomplete.

So says our guest, Ray Raphael, author of "Founders: The People Who Brought You a Nation," and "A People's History of the American Revolution," among many other books on this subject, found on his remarkable website, at , which includes a mind-blowing quiz that may cause you to believe that everything you ever learned in school was wrong.

Think the Revolution began in 1775 in Concord and Lexington? That was arguably a British counter-revolutionary act, in reaction to the fact that patriots had already taken over local governments from the British the year before in bloodless coups, and had begun people-run governments in virtually all of rural Massachusetts beyond Boston (where 95 percent of the people lived). In fact, if we search for the heroic founding fathers who really began the American Revolution, we discover a climate in which such heros were discouraged, and a people's movement reigned supreme.

Of course, some things are just common knowledge, like Paul Revere's historic ride, or Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty of give me death" speech. Wrong again. Revere lit those lights on the Old North Church, but never made his ride, as hundreds of others spread the word that night. And those famous words: not said until 18 years after Henry's death (in 1817), by a guy named William Wirt, who history seems to have mostly forgotten.

Myths and legends seem all too often behind our understanding of this important history. While the so-called Founding Fathers had a role, it was hundreds of patriots who made it all possible, a revolutionary evocation of the will of the people. Why has history been rewritten? Why might it not be in the best interests of the powers-that-be today to accurately represent a people who took to the streets in a way that overturned the oppression and corruption inherent to the status quo of the time? Who are some of the unsung heros and heroines whose stories are seldom told?

As the Boston Globe observes: "In 2001, Raphael’s People’s History of the American Revolution synthesized the 'bottom-up' history that grabbed the attention of scholars in the field since the 1960s. Howard Zinn, author of People’s History of the United States, endorsed the book and used it to initiate his 'People’s History' series, published by The New Press. While both Raphael and Zinn view common people as significant historical agents, Zinn’s focus is decidedly more political, focusing on dissent and protest, while Raphael deals with everyday experiences as well as social movements."

The following reviews reflect a book that reflects Raphael's lifetime body of work, which breaks through the myths, and captures the authentic grassroots nature of the Revolution, including the stories of women and youth, who are often at the forefront of a movement, but whose stories are seldom told.

"Dramatize, personalize, localize: this is the way Ray Raphael has brilliantly explored the American Revolution. Readers will devour this stirring account. The author teaches us more about the multiple dimensions of the American Revolution than one could ever have imagined.”
— Gary B. Nash, Professor of History, UCLA
Director, National Center for History in the Schools;
Author of The Unknown American Revolution

"Raphael deftly reconstructs the lives of women and men of the Revolutionary generation who are unfamiliar to many of us. A natural storyteller, he helps us feel the urgency of their choices, fears, and expectations."
— Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History,
Baruch College & The Graduate Center, CUNY,
and author of Revolutionary Mothers

Please join John Quinlan for a fascinating Independence Day weekend edition of Forward Forum, and please join in our conversation by calling 608-213-8409.

[Co-host Stephanie Woods is off this week; training for the Act7 AIDS Ride. See the rightmost column for links to information on how you can offer her your support. Steph will be returning in mid-August.]