[Freedom archives news] The Power of People’s History

Freedom Archives Events freedomarchivesnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Dec 22 14:13:46 EST 2014

    The Power of People’s History

Posted on December 22, 2014 

Charlotte PH 
If you choose to go to college and major in history, there is one 
question that will come up a lot, especially when your four years are 
coming to a close: “so, what are you going to do with history? Teach?” 
In general, I think that I can safely say that I didn’t study history 
because of the job opportunities that I would be showered with after 
graduation. I studied history because, broadly speaking, I want to 
understand the world we live in. My studies over the past four years 
have repeatedly reaffirmed the relevance – and power – of people’s history.

That’s why, when I signed up for a public history internship class this 
semester, I was hoping to intern at the Freedom Archives. I had 
previously encountered the archive during another class where we watched 
COINTELPRO 101 and had Q&A with Claude. I appreciated then, as I 
appreciate now, the fact that history’s relevance is fundamentally 
integrated into the mission of the Freedom Archives. What’s the point of 
historical material if the only people who engage with it are academic 
historians? Although I’m not going to answer it, that’s not a rhetorical 
question – academic historians are important. But the power of 
historical materials increases exponentially when they are made 
available to a broader audience. Everything here is collected, 
cataloged, and shared online and at events with its relevance to today’s 
struggles and today’s youth in mind. As the website states, the material 
here is meant to /Preserve the past, illuminate the present, and shape 
the future <https://co.clickandpledge.com/sp/d1/default.aspx?wid=33005>./

I’m glad that my 100 hours here have helped to advance that goal. I’ve 
spent my time at the Freedom Archives listening to and cataloging a 
shelf of reel-to-reel audio tapes that deal with the “Little Free Speech 
<http://search.freedomarchives.org/search.php?view_collection=341>” of 
1966 and 1967 at UC Berkeley. When I did a little research into this 
period, I found that not a lot of material is out there right now that 
deals with the campus uprisings that took place after the better-known 
Free Speech Movement of 1964. I hope that historians, students, and 
anybody interested in the nature and value of student movements finds 
this collection valuable. Although I grew up in the East Bay and 
encountered the Free Speech Movement a lot (in the form of UC Berkeley’s 
co-optation of the movement to sell the school, at the campus Free 
Speech Café, in the movie “Berkeley in the ‘60s,” in classes, in 
conversation, in modern student movements…), I learned a lot about the 
experience of campus organizing during that period by listening to these 
tapes and talking about the subject with Claude, Nathaniel, and my 
fellow interns.

In a certain sense, I know that I do want to teach history after I 
graduate, and for the rest of my life. Not necessarily in a classroom 
and not just to any one age group, but in my daily life: in 
conversations with strangers on the bus, with friends and family, at 
marches and demonstrations, in my future workplace, and everywhere else. 
History can be used to fight racism, sexism, and even the class war. 
Historical knowledge is power, and it is for everyone.


*Please support the work of the Freedom Archives **HERE! 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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