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“Voices of a People’s History of the United States”

By Jennie McKeon

History comes to life at University of West Florida. Professor Scott Satterwhite and students from his English Composition class will perform Howard Zinn’s “Voices of a People’s History of the United States.”

“What I like about this event is that it gives people the opportunity to ‘become’ someone that they admire historically, but it’s not like a reenactment,” Satterwhite said. “There aren’t any costumes involved.  We don’t recreate famous strikes or battles, or need many props except for the scripts themselves.”

The performance will be the culmination of the semester and is the students’ final project.

“Throughout the class, I’ve used these primary sources from Howard Zinn’s book to demonstrate the connections between everyday people and social change,” Satterwhite said. “I think it’s an interesting way to demonstrate our connections with history, and specifically I’ve found this a useful tool to have people discuss, debate, critically approach and write about current events.”

By putting a personal slant on history, Satterwhite hopes his students will be more inclined to cognize current events.

“Knowing history, especially social history, or the history of everyday people, can help a person to better understand current events that really do touch them—the Trayvon Martin case, for example, or the ongoing discussion about women’s rights, war, race, and politics,” Satterwhite said.

Zinn grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y. in a working-class immigrant household. As a young adult he flew bomber missions during World War II. He attended college under the GI Bill and earned a Ph.D. in history from Columbia. Zinn was a professor at Boston University until he retired in 1988, an activist and the author of several other books including “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train” and “Passionate Declarations.” His works are still considered relevant today, and obviously Satterwhite is a fan.

“He offers a very different perspective to American history,” Satterwhite said of Zinn. “The history that he’s written is essentially history told from the perspective of the people that bore the brunt of historical change.  The Revolutionary War told from the perspective of the slave. The Civil War told from the perspective of the Irish immigrant.  The labor movement told from the perspective of female textile workers organizing for a better life for their families.”

The performance is free and open to the public. All that is asked is that you bring non-perishable donations for Manna Food Bank.

“I think when people see events like this, they often wish they could do something more,” Satterwhite said.  “It just seemed logical that we could also use this event as a means to help other people who are really having a hard time right now.  If Howard Zinn were still alive, or Sojourner Truth for that matter, I’m sure they’d agree.”

VOICES OF A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES
WHEN: 6 p.m. Thursday, April 19
WHERE:  UWF Commons, Room 255
COST: Free, non-perishable donations to Manna Food Bank accepted
DETAILS: Contact Scott Satterwhite at css18@students.uwf.edu