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Activism

The kind of history I study and write, which is variously called peoples' history, social history, or "history from below," shows that working people and their movements have, over time, been active, creative forces in the making of history. I believe that we can learn from this kind of history, that we can find inspiration in it, that we can use it as we work toward a more just and humane future. History from below helps us to see that peoples' struggles - over land, labor, rights, and power - are centuries old and largely continuous, down to the present. I have therefore tried to combine scholarship and activism, the study of movements from below with the making of movements from below. I have taken part in movements against the war in Vietnam, against the interventions of the U.S. government in Central America in the 1980s, against apartheid in South Africa, against environmental destruction, and against all forms of exploitation and oppression, based on race, class, and gender.

In recent years I have worked to win a new trial for Pennsylvania death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and to abolish capital punishment in the U.S. and throughout the world. To anyone interested in the struggle against the death penalty, I would recommend three websites: the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, the Death Penalty Information Center, and the Pennsylvanians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. I would also recommend two groups that are especially important to struggles for justice in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where I live: The Thomas Merton Center and Just Harvest. Two other useful websites are Midnight Notes and Counterpunch. I have always believed that the struggle for a better future must be a struggle to find new, more inclusive, more egalitarian ideas, in the past and in the present.

historical map