History UnErased started with the circulation of a petition (initiated by Deb) and a refusal to sign the petition (refusal by Miriam). The petition was borne from a short documentary produced by Deb about teachers and students at Lowell High School who identify as LGBTQ, and Deb’s desire to have the video and LGBTQ topics become part of the Lowell High curriculum.
When Deb first started teaching English Language Learners at the high school in 2005, Miriam was already a ten year veteran within the same department. Each of them was dedicated to teaching students about social justice, civic responsibility and current events. Deb always brought in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into her instruction of ELL students who were transitioning to the mainstream curricula. In her last year at the high school she taught and created the curriculum for an elective on gender and identity. Miriam taught US history to English language learners, and also taught electives on the Holocaust and Cambodian history. Both teachers were passionate advocates for their students. An earlier movie that Deb had produced with LHS student, Connor Crosby, spotlighted the lives of refugees in Lowell and featured the voices of several teachers, including Miriam’s.
The petition was circulated throughout the school and most teachers and administrators were happy to sign. Miriam was not; she felt that teachers were already overwhelmed with top-down mandates and this seemed like another responsibility that teachers were not prepared to implement. She went to Deb’s classroom to tell her why she refused to sign the petition. They talked. That initial discussion led to many hours of discussion about education, pedagogy and the missing pieces of the high school curriculum. Their ideas began to converge; LGBTQ students were most at risk for truancy, risk behaviors and dropping out of school. LGBTQ history and content was missing from high school curricula and most importantly, teachers were not prepared to teach LGBTQ content; they lacked the knowledge, the resources and the comfort to address a complex topic.
The non-profit, History UnErased (HUE) came about because of those conversations. Deb and Miriam realized that they were prepared and ready to make a positive change in the lives of teachers and students, and in their own lives, too. Deb and Miriam decided to leave the classroom (and their very secure jobs) in 2015 to pursue their vision of preparing every educator to teach LGBTQ academic history and content as part of an inclusive curriculum. They ran their first teacher training workshops in the summer of 2015, after receiving a grant from Teaching with Primary Sources (part of the Library of Congress). In 2015, HUE was accepted into the EforAll accelerator program and that acceptance proved to be a game changer. Under the able guidance of their mentors, Gary Chamberlain and Kevin Oye, Deb and Miriam began to think less like teachers and more like entrepreneurs. They began to develop materials for wider distribution and build the infrastructure that is crucial for business success and growth. HUE has delivered training to several schools in Massachusetts and HUE’s products are being used by teachers across the country. History UnErased is currently in talks with several major school systems including New York City Public Schools. In 2016, HUE launched the Youth Leadership in LGBTQ Studies Institute with students from Lowell High School and Westford Academy. These students will take leadership roles in introducing LGBTQ history and content to their schools and communities.
In 2016, History UnErased teamed up with Eric Marcus, author of “Making History: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Equal Rights” (Harper Collins 1992) and “Making GAY History: The Half-Century Fight for Lesbian and Gay Equal Rights” (Harper Collins, 2002) and Sara Burningham, Executive Producer of “Making Gay History” podcast series, to augment HUE’s leading-edge LGBTQ Academic Inquiry Series and bring LGBTQ voices into the American civil rights story for K-12 classrooms.
The archive of 100 oral history interviews Eric recorded in the late 1980s and 1990s are being brought to life for the K-12 context, with fully-produced podcasts that anchor HUE’s engaging and empowering academic inquiry units for K-12 classrooms with direct access points in Social studies, English Language Arts, STEM, Fine Arts, Health and more.
Motivated by their belief that enduring change can only happen through education, Deb and Miriam are ready to make positive change for LGBTQ students, their familes, their friends and everybody in between!