The People Speak was inspired by Howard Zinn’s groundbreaking books A People’s History of the United States and Voices of a People’s History of the United States.
The People Speak (2009) is a documentary feature film that uses dramatic and musical performances of the letters, diaries, and speeches of everyday Americans. The film gives voice to those who, by insisting on equality and justice, spoke up for social change throughout U.S. history and also illustrates the relevance of this to today’s society.
The film is narrated by historian Howard Zinn and is based on his books A People’s History of the United States and, with Anthony Arnove, Voices of a People’s History of the United States.
The People Speak is produced by Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, Chris Moore, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn. It is co-directed by Moore, Arnove and Zinn. Dramatic and musical performances by Allison Moorer, Benjamin Bratt, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Chris Robinson, Christina Kirk, Danny Glover, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, David Strathairn, Don Cheadle, Eddie Vedder, Harris Yulin, Jasmine Guy, John Legend, Josh Brolin, Kathleen Chalfant, Kerry Washington, Lupe Fiasco, Marisa Tomei, Martín Espada, Matt Damon, Michael Ealy, Mike O’Malley, Morgan Freeman, P!nk, Q’orianka Kilcher, Reg E. Cathey, Rich Robinson, Rosario Dawson, Sandra Oh, Sean Penn, Staceyann Chin, and Viggo Mortensen.
The People Speak gives voice to those who spoke up for social change throughout U.S. history. Everyday people like you have shaped our nation’s history.
Continue the work of these amazing changemakers: Stand up, speak out, organize. Take action today to create the change you want to see. Democracy is not a spectator sport!
1. Matt Damon: The Declaration of Independence (1776)
2. Mike O’Malley: Samuel Dewees Recounts the Suppression of Insubordination in the Continental Army after the Mutinies of 1781 (1844)
3. Josh Brolin: Joseph Plumb Martin, A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier (1830)
4. Viggo Mortensen: Plough Jogger on Shay’s Rebellion (1786)
5. Darryl “DMC” McDaniels: David Walker’s Appeal (1830)
6. John Legend: “No More Auction Block” (traditional)
7. Benjamin Bratt: Jermain Wesley Loguen, Letter to Sarah Logue (March 28, 1860)
8. Morgan Freeman: Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro” (July 5, 1852)
9. David Strathairn: John Brown’s Last Speech (November 2, 1859)
10. Harris Yulin: Columbus Sun, “The Class That Suffers” (February 17, 1865)
11. Danny Glover: Henry McNeal Turner, “On the Eligibility of Colored Members to Seats in the Georgia Legislature” (September 3, 1868)
12. Jasmine Guy: Sylvia Woods, You Have to Fight for Freedom (1973)
13. Kerry Washington: Testimony of Fannie Lou Hamer (August 22, 1964)
14. Michael Ealy: Malcolm X, Message to the Grass Roots (November 10, 1963)
15. Lupe Fiasco: Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Petition Against the War in Vietnam (July 28, 1965)
16. Jasmine Guy: Alice Walker, “Once” (1968)
17. Rosario Dawson: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions (July 19, 1848)
18. Christina Kirk & Josh Brolin: Susan B. Anthony & Judge Ward Hunt, United States of America v. Susan B. Anthony (June 19, 1873)
19. Marisa Tomei: Harriet Hanson Robinson, “Characteristics of the Early Factory Girls” (1898)
20. Christina Kirk: Susan Brownmiller, “Abortion Is a Woman’s Right” (1999)
21. Kerry Washington: Sojourner Truth, Ain’t I A Woman? (1851)
22. Alison Moorer: Yip Harburg, “Brother Can You Spare A Dime?” (1931)
23. Danny Glover: Langston Hughes, “Ballad of Roosevelt” (1934)
24. Bob Dylan: Ry Cooder, Van Dyke Parks: Woody Guthrie, “Do Re Mi” (1937)
25. Marisa Tomei: Genora Dollinger; Striking Flint (1936-37 GM Strike)
26. Kathleen Chalfant: Rose Chernin, On Organizing the Unemployed in the Bronx in the 1930s (1949)
27. David Strathairn: Eugene Debs, Statement to the Court (September 18, 1918)
28. Martin Espada: Cesar Chavez, Address to the Commonwealth Club of California (November 9, 1984)
29. Reg E. Cathey: Vito Russo, Why We Fight (1988)
30. P!nk: P!nk, “Dear Mr. President” (2006)
31. Viggo Mortensen: Bartolome de Las Casas, The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account (1542)
32. Q’orianka Kilcher: Chief Joseph Recounts His Trip to Washington D.C. (1879)
33. Josh Brolin: Samuel Clemens, Comment on the Moro Massacre (March 12,1906)
34. Don Cheadle: Missionary Department of the Atlanta, Georgia, A.M.E. Church, “The Negro Should Not Enter the Army” (May 1, 1899)
35. David Strathairn: Admiral Gene LaRocque Speaks to Studs Terkel about “The Good War” (1985)
36. Staceyann Chin: Yuri Kochiyama, “Then Came the War” (1991)
37. Sandra Oh: Emma Goldman, Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty (1908)
38. Viggo Mortensen: Industrial Workers of the World, Why the IWW is not Patriotic to the United States (1918)
39. John Legend: Muhammad Ali, Speaks Out Against the Vietnam War (1966)
40. Benjamin Bratt: Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers (2003)
41. Rich & Chris Robinson: Neil Young, “Ohio” (1974)
42. Christina Kirk & Viggo Mortensen: Orlando and Phyllis Rodriguez, Not in Our Son’s Name (September 15, 2001)
43. Marisa Tomei: Cindy Sheehan, It’s Time the Antiwar Choir Started Singing
44. Sean Penn: Kevin Tillman, After Pat’s Birthday (2006)
45. Josh Brolin: Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun (1939)
46. Eddie Vedder: Bob Dylan, “Masters of War” (1963)
47. Jasmine Guy: Marian Wright Edelman, Commencement Address at Milton Academy (June 10, 1983)
48. Don Cheadle: Frederick Douglass, “The Significance of Emancipation in the West Indies” (August 3, 1857)
49. Matt Damon: John Steinbeck, Grapes of Wrath (1939)
50. Staceyann Chin: Marge Piercy, “the low road” (1980)
51. Bruce Springsteen: Woody Guthrie, “This Land Is Your Land” (1940)
52. Patti Smith: Patti Smith, “People Have the Power” (1988)
Preferred sources other than in Voices of a People’s History of the United States
“Samuel Dewees Recounts the Suppression of Insubordination in the Continental Army after the Mutinies of 1781” (1844). John Smith Hanna, Samuel Dewees, A History of the Life and Services of Captain Samuel Dewees, a Native of Pennsylvania, and Soldier of the Revolutionary and Last Wars (Baltimore: Robert Neilson, 1844), 228–32.
Joseph Plumb Martin, “A Narrative of Some of the Adventures, Dangers and Sufferings of a Revolutionary Soldier” (Hallowell, Maine: Glazier, Masters, and Co., 1830).
“David Walker’s Appeal” (1830). In David Walker’s Appeal, in Four Articles; Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World, but in Particular, and Very Expressly, to Those of the United States of America, 3rd ed. (Boston: David Walker, 1830).
Jermain Wesley Loguen, Letter to Sarah Logue (March 28, 1860). First printed as “Mr. Loguen’s Reply,” in The Liberator 30, no. 17, (April 27, 1860), p. 1.
Frederick Douglass, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” (July 5, 1852). Speech delivered in Corinthian Hall, Rochester, New York.
John Brown, “John Brown’s Last Speech” (November 2, 1859). In Testimonies of Capt. John Brown, at Harper’s Ferry, with His Address to the Court (New York: American Anti-Slavery Society, 1860), 15–16.
Columbus Sun, “The Class That Suffer” (February 17, 1865). In the Augusta Chronicle and Sentinel, February 17, 1865.
Henry McNeal Turner, “On the Eligibility of Colored Members to Seats in the Georgia Legislature” (September 3, 1868). In Edwin S. Redkey, ed., Respect Black: The Writings and Speeches of Henry McNeal Turner (New York: Arno Press/The New York Times, 1971), 14–15, 16, 25.
Sylvia Woods, “You Have to Fight for Freedom” (1973). In Lynd and Lynd, eds., Rank and File, pp. 113, 115, 116, 119, 123–24, 128–29.
Testimony of Fannie Lou Hamer (August 22, 1964). Joseph L. Rauh, Jr., papers, Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Washington, D.C.
Malcolm X, “Message To The Grass Roots” (1963). Reproduced and performed with permission of the Estate of Malcolm X.
Alice Walker, excerpts from “Once.” Copyright © 1968, 1996 by Alice Walker.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” (Seneca Falls Convention, July 19, 1848). In Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Matilda Joslyn Gage, eds.
History of Woman Suffrage, Volume I: 1848–1861 (New York: Fowler & Wells, Publishers, 1881), 70–71.
Susan B. Anthony Addresses Judge Ward Hunt, The United States of America v. Susan B. Anthony (June 19, 1873). In Ida Husted Harper, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony.
Including Public Addresses, Her Own Letters and Many From Her Contemporaries During Fifty Years, vol. 1 (Indianapolis: The Hollenbeck Press, 1898), 438–41.
Harriet Jane Hanson Robinson, “Characteristics of the Early Factory Girls” (1898). In Harriet Jane Hanson Robinson, Loom and Spindle:Or, Life Among the Early Mill Girls (New York, Boston, T. Y. Crowell & Company, 1898), 37–40, 51–52.
Susan Brownmiller, “Abortion Is a Woman’s Right” (1999). In Susan Brownmiller, In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution (New York: Dial Press/Random House, 1999), 102–04.
Sojourner Truth, “Ain’t I a Woman?” (1851). In “Women’s Rights Convention: Sojourner Truth,” The Anti-Slavery Bugle 6, no. 41 (June 21, 1851), 160. Text modernized for this edition by the editors.
Langston Hughes, “The Ballad of Roosevelt.” In Langston Hughes, Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Copyright 1994 by the Estate of Langston Hughes.
Genora (Johnson) Dollinger, “Striking Flint: Genora (Johnson) Dollinger Remembers the 1936–37 GM Sit-Down Strike” (1995). Copyright © 1995 Susan Rosenthal.
Courtesy of http://susanrosenthal.com/pamphlets/striking-flint/
Rose Chernin, “Organizing the Unemployed in the Bronx in the 1930s” (1949). As recounted by her daughter, Kim Chernin, in Kim Chernin, In My Mother’s House (New Haven, CT: Ticknor and Fields, 1983), 92–98.
Eugene Debs, Statement to the Court. First published 1918.
Cesar Chavez, Address to the Commonwealth Club of California. TM/© 2009 the Cesar E. Chavez Foundation. www.chavezfoundation.org
Vito Russo, “Why We Fight” (1988). Based on a transcript of two speeches delivered at ACT UP demonstrations: the first in Albany, New York, May 9, 1988, and the second in Washington, D.C., at the Department of Health and Human Services, October 10, 1988. Used by arrangement with Arnie Kantrowitz.
Bartolomé de Las Casas, “The Devastation of the Indies:A Brief Account” (1542), trans. John Sayles.
Chief Joseph Recounts His Trip to Washington, D.C. (1879). Published in North American Review, April 1879.
Samuel Clemens, “Comments on the Moro Massacre” (March 12, 1906). In Jim Zwick, ed., Mark Twain’s Weapons of Satire: Anti-imperialist Writings on the Philippine-American War, (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1992), 170–73. Used by arrangement with Joan Zwick.
A.M.E. Church Missionary Department of Atlanta, Georgia, “The Negro Should Not Enter the Army.” In Voice of Missions, May 1, 1899, p. 2.
Admiral Gene Larocque Speaks to Studs Terkel About “The Good War.” Copyright © 1984, 1997. In Studs Terkel, “The Good War”: An Oral History of World War II (New York: Ballantine Books, 1984).
Yuri Kochiyama, “Then Came The War, ” in Asian American Experiences in the United States.
Oral Histories of First to Fourth Generation Americans from China, the Philippines, Japan, India, the Pacific Islands, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Copyright © 1991 Joann Faung Jean Lee.
Emma Goldman, “Patriotism: A Menace to Liberty” (1908). In Emma Goldman’s Anarchism and Other Essays (New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1917).
“Why the IWW Is Not Patriotic to the United States” (1918). In Carleton H. Parker, The Casual Laborer and Other Essays (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920), 102.
“Muhammad Ali Speaks Out Against the Vietnam War” (1966). Quoted in Mike Marqusee, Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties (New York: Verso, 1999), 214–15.
Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers. (New York: Penguin, 2003).
Orlando Rodriguez and Phyllis Rodriguez, “Not In Our Son’s Name.” Copyright © 2001 by Orlando Rodriguez and Phyllis Rodriguez.
Cindy Sheehan, “It’s Time the Antiwar Choir Started Singing” (August 5, 2005).
Kevin Tillman, “After Pat’s Birthday” (October 2006).
Dalton Trumbo, Johnny Got His Gun.Copyright © 1939 by Dalton Trumbo. Renewed 1983.
Marian Wright Edelman, Commencement Address at Milton Academy (June 10, 1983). Speech delivered in Milton, Massachusetts.
Frederick Douglass, “West India Emancipation.” In Frederick Douglass’s Two Speeches (Rochester, NY: C.P. Dewey, Printer, American Office, 1857).
John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath (New York: Viking Press, 1939). From chapter 28. © 1939 John Steinbeck, Copyright Renewed 1967 by John Steinbeck.
Marge Piercy, “The low road,” in Marge Piercy, The Moon Is Always Female. Copyright © 1977, 1980 by Marge Piercy and Middlemarsh, Inc.