Skip to main content

Center for Human Rights - Celebrating 15 Years! Students • Partners • Research

Center for Human Rights presents El Salvador oral history archive at Washington State Social Studies Conference

April 5, 2016

What do you get when you bring together almost 150 social studies teachers for a weekend retreat in scenic Lake Chelan? A slate of inspiring and enlightening workshops, of course, but also a supremely tricky social studies trivia night. Quick: name five U.S. presidents who previously served as Secretary of State! *

While my Jackson School colleagues and I didn’t win the trivia night contest at the Washington State Council for the Social Studies Spring Conference, we did have the chance to present our work to teachers from across the state, and learn about how they are incorporating global issues in their schools and classrooms.

I attended the conference on behalf of the University of Washington Center for Human Rights (UWCHR) and the Center for Global Studies. It was my first public presentation of the Unfinished Sentences Testimony Archive, a project which the UWCHR has been working on for the last three years along with partners in El Salvador. The Testimony Archive is a unique online resource which collects hundreds of short video excerpts from the oral histories of survivors of the Salvadoran civil war.

Testimony archive booklet curriculumTold from the perspective of people from the rural community of Arcatao, Chalatenango, the
Unfinished Sentences Testimony Archive presents a grassroots history of the war in El Salvador. They describe the conditions of poverty and exploitation that led to a surge of labor organizing, and resulting state repression, in the 1970s, to the outbreak of open conflict between a guerrilla army and U.S.-supported government forces from 1980 to 1992. Survivors tell harrowing stories of fleeing from the Salvadoran army’s indiscriminate violence, which targeted civilians and combatants alike, and also describe the great commitment with which they embraced struggles for dignity and rights. Community members also reflect on problems facing Salvadorans today, from ongoing violence to the need for truth, accountability, and reparations in the wake of human tragedy.

Teachers who attended our presentation offered constructive advice about how to shape the Testimony Archive to the needs of their classroom, including specific lesson plans which will align with state and national curriculum standards. As the Testimony Archive develops, we plan to continually add supplementary materials created both by the Center for Human Rights and teachers locally and internationally.

I hope that by this time next year, we will be able to return to Chelan to present an even richer resource for teaching human rights and world history. In the mean time, I’ll be studying my social studies trivia…

(* Six U.S. Presidents have served as Secretary of State: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, and James Buchanan.)