Thursday, December 10, 2020

Teaching History for Justice: Our New Book Is Available December 25th!



I am excited to announce that this December 25th, Kaylene Stevens and my new book "Teaching History for Justice: Centering Activism in Students' Study of the Past" will be released from Teachers College Press. We hope this book challenges the field to center justice in the teaching of history and offer practicing teachers several vignettes of what this type of pedagogy could look like in practice. We also co-wrote several chapters with four excellent classroom teachers and elementary teacher educators.

You can order the book here:

Here is the summary from the publisher:

Learn how to enact justice-oriented pedagogy and foster students’ critical engagement in today’s history classroom. Over the past 2 decades, various scholars have rightfully argued that we need to teach students to “think like a historian” or “think like a democratic citizen.” In this book, the authors advocate for cultivating activist thinking in the history classroom. Teachers can use Teaching History for Justice to show students how activism was used in the past to seek justice, how past social movements connect to the present, and how democratic tools can be used to change society. The first section examines the theoretical and research foundation for “thinking like an activist” and outlines three related pedagogical concepts: social inquiry, critical multiculturalism, and transformative democratic citizenship. The second section presents vignettes based on the authors’ studies of elementary, middle, and high school history teachers who engage in justice-oriented teaching practices.

Book Features:

  • Outlines key components of justice-oriented history pedagogy for the history and social studies K–12 classroom.
  • Advocates for students to develop “thinking like an activist” in their approach to studying the past.
  • Contains research-based vignettes of four imagined teachers, providing examples of what teaching history for justice can look like in practice.
  • Includes descriptions of typical units of study in the discipline of history and how they can be reimagined to help students learn about movements and social change.


1.   Centering Justice in Students’ Study of the Past  1
Why Do We Need to Teach History for Justice? 2
Where Does Teaching History for Justice Originate? 8
How Do We Teach History for Justice? 11
Conclusion 15

2.   Thinking Like an Activist  16
Approaches to History Education  19
Types of Thinking in History  20
Using Activist Theories to Understand History  24
Thinking Like an Activist Classroom Tool  30

3.   Social Inquiry  32
Making Inquiries Social  33
Inquiries Through a Historical Thinking Lens  34
Inquiries Through a Democratic Citizenship Lens  35
Inquiries Through a Justice Lens  35

4. Critical Multiculturalism   41
(with Taylor Collins, Framingham Public Schools)
Making the Curriculum Multicultural and Critical  43
Critical Multiculturalism in Action  50

5. Transformative Democratic Citizenship   56
Studying a Political, but Nonpartisan, History  59
Studying a Political History That is Democratic and Multicultural  62
Transformative Democratic Citizenship in Action  67

6. U.S. History at the High School Level: Ms. María Lopez   73
History for Justice in the U.S. History Classroom  74
Ms. María Lopez’s High School U.S. History Classroom  75

7. World History at the High School Level: Mr. Tom Kulig   90
(with Maria R. Sequenzia, Framingham Public Schools)
History for Justice in the World History Classroom  91
Mr. Tom Kulig’s High School World History Classroom  93

8. Ancient World History at the Middle Level: Ms. Joyce Smith   105
(with Neema Avashia, Boston Public Schools)
History for Justice in the Ancient History Classroom  107
Ms. Joyce Smith’s Middle School Ancient History Classroom  108

9. State and Local History at the Elementary Level: Mr. Frank Hashimoto   120
(with Jennifer R. Bryson, Boston University)
History for Justice in the State and Local History Classroom  122
Mr. Hashimoto’s Elementary School State and Local History Classroom  124

10. Overcoming Barriers   132
Overcoming the Barriers to History for Justice  133

Conclusion   140


“Martell and Stevens offer an original and compelling framework for teaching history for social justice in the United States. Drawing on theories and practices of social activism, the authors argue that a critical approach to history education informed by social activism can enable students to understand how past social movements have led to greater justice in the present, and how a critical activist orientation can empower students in the present to promote social justice today and in the future. By including multiple examples of history teachers in diverse settings and at different grade levels who have enacted activist-oriented approaches, the book is among the most important and relevant resources for teaching and learning history during politically contentious times.”
—Terrie Epstein, chair and professor of education, Hunter College, City University of New York

“In the wake of uprisings across the United States demanding racial justice, Teaching History for Justice is a timely contribution for social studies educators seeking to create classrooms focused on social change. Martell and Stevens not only make a compelling case for the need for justice in history education, but also provide educators with frameworks and pedagogical insights to cultivate students as activists. The approaches, strategies, and ideas found in this book give social studies educators a clear roadmap to leverage history education to create a more just and equitable future.”
—Alexander Cuenca, assistant professor, Indiana University


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