Student Activism

A People’s History Inspires Students’ Political Activism

L.A. students of color in lime green shirt In an experiment with nearly 700 students from nine Chicago-area schools, Matthew Nelsen (a PhD candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University) gave out readings on the abolitionist movement, the National Farmworkers Association, and the Chinese Exclusion Act. Half of the readings were from the corporate textbook The American Pageant and the other half from A People’s History of the United States. Afterwards, when Nelsen asked students to report on their willingness to participate in political activities (voting, campaigning, or demonstrations), Black and Latino youth reported a greater willingness to participate when they read passages from A People’s History.
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