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Grand Rapids People’s History Project

July 30, 2010

For years now GRIID has been facilitating a class on the History of US Social Movements, using the important text of radical historian Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States.

With Zinn’s recent death we decided to work on a project that applies Zinn’s work on a local level. The Grand Rapids People’s History Project seeks to recover and reclaim the history of people who have been forgotten, ignored or suppressed from “official history.”

We begin our project with an interview with former historian for the City of Grand Rapids Gordon Olson. We spoke with Gordon about the early immigrant communities to Grand Rapids, the 1911 furniture workers strike and the broader idea of history from below.

We have decided to look at labor history first and have begun interviews and research. We will likely look at the abolitionist movement and civil rights in Grand Rapids, the Suffragette and feminist movements, anti-war and LGBT movements as well.

The Grand Rapids People’s History Project is taking a process-oriented approach that will be posting as much information online as possible and an eventual DVD and screening of each of the major themes. We welcome people who want to do research, help with production and writing for this project. If you have ideas or an interest in working on this project you can contact us here at GRIID.

(A special thanks to Gordon Olson for his time and to Rick Beerhorst who allowed us to use his music for the introduction.)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kate Wheeler permalink
    July 31, 2010 4:52 pm

    This is wonderful. What a great project–both for itself and to honor Howard Zinn’s work.

    My one comment: when you post these for the first time, is there any way to break them down into shorter pieces? I had to watch this in several parts. The Vimeo format doesn’t allow one to easily advance through the interview as, say, a YouTube format does, to a specific place mid-film.

  2. Jeff Smith permalink*
    August 1, 2010 9:00 pm

    Kate, thanks for the feedback. I think we can make an adjustment on these for future interviews and put them in several parts.

  3. Heather Brown permalink
    August 27, 2010 1:26 am

    This is wonderful. John and I discussed it over dinner tonight and agreed that the Grand Rapids River was worth looking at from a People perspective.

  4. August 27, 2010 1:28 am

    Thanks for the positive note Heather. If you have ideas or any interest in participating, we welcome it.

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