Local University Students Write Local Histories

[This text was originally published in AREA Chicago #7 in December 2008]

For this issue, AREA has solicited the contributions of eleven students from DePaul University and University of Chicago. Two of our Advisory Group members, Rebecca Zorach and Euan Hague, taught courses that related to the history of 1968 in Chicago. Several of their students wrote short profiles of Chicago organizations and movements for this section on Hidden History. This is not the first time AREA has actively connected with the pedagogical process—in late 2006, Ryan Hollon (guest editor of Issue #4) collaborated with Young Chicago Authors to produce several pieces of poetry related to that issue’s theme. AREA also had a regular presence at the Teachers for Social Justice Curriculum Fair and this year presented a number of free lesson plans (in collaboration with CPS teacher and AREA contributor Bert Stabler) for Chicago Public Schools teachers to use in teaching past articles from the pages of AREA in the classroom. Please enjoy this collection of articles, which exemplify one of the goals of this issue—for young people to critically engage with the history which they have inherited.

DePaul and University of Chicago Student Contributions:
Free Schools by Ashley Weger, Blackstone Rangers by Julie Glasier, Chicago Surrealist Group by Joey Pizzolato, Kartemquin Films by Darcy Lydum, Chicago Area Draft Resisters by A.L. Gray, The Seed by Amy Martin, Negro Digest/Black World by Chris Brancaccio, Harper Court by Andrea Baer, Chicago Artist Boycott by Maggie Taft, Conservative Vice Lords by Laura Gluckman, AACM by Chloe Ottenhoff.

The fortieth anniversary of the events of 1968 remind us that it is important to ensure that the stuggles that were fought, the people who believed in them, and the issues that were contested are not forgotten. Indeed, many are still relevant today. From protests against unpopular wars, to efforts to by-pass mainstream media outlets by self-producing film and art, I asked DePaul students to examine the past and make connections to the present. This would enable them to assess how the legacies of 1968 impact on their lives. Gray, Darcy, Joey, Julie and Ashley each researched an organization that was active in the counter-cultural struggles of 1968. Each noted how the groups they reviewed still resonated, from Gallery Bugs Bunny’s surrealist art to the community organizing efforts of the Blackstone Rangers. Each learned that the contests of 1968 continue to echo throughout Chicago.
—Euan Hague

I taught a course on Chicago in 1968 to introduce students to the city’s recent history and to ask them to reflect on the relationship between that history and contemporary issues in art and politics. I also had the ulterior motive of pushing them to investigate the wealth of archival materials available in Chicago collections, as a way of encouraging them to get a sense of what it means to do research with unique archival sources. In one assignment, students produced “catalogue essays” on significant organizations, events, and historical developments in the city in and around 1968. Several of these essays were also presented in edited form on the website of the exhibition Looks Like Freedom, and incorporated into exhibition text.
—Rebecca Zorach

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