Apply by June 1st! History from Below

This June, ROP human dignity leader and Grange member Aaron Embree will present a resolution at the 2012 Oregon State Grange session asking participants to declare their official support of the Occupy movement, as embodied in the Declaration of the Occupation of NYC, approved by the NYC general assembly on September 29, 2011.  Aaron was already successful at passing a similar resolution at the Marion County Pomona Grange.  Key to that victory was reminding Grangers of their own, historic roots.  In fact, in proposing the resolution, Randi Embree (Aaron’s wife) asked grangers in Marion County to consider the similarities between the Occupy statement and the Grange’s own, original 1874 Declaration of Purpose.  Here are a few excerpts from the 1874 Declaration:

…We are opposed to such spirit and management of any corporation or enterprise as tends to oppress the people and rob them of their just profits… We are opposed to excessive salaries, high rates of interest and exorbitant profits in trade. They greatly increase our burdens and do not bear a proper proportion to the profits of producers. We desire only self-protection and the protection of every true interest of our land, by legitimate transactions, legitimate trade, and legitimate profits.

…We desire a proper equality, equity, and fairness; protection for the weak; restraint upon the strong; in short, justly distributed burdens and justly distributed power. These are American ideas, the very essence of American independence, and to advocate the contrary is unworthy of the sons and daughters of an American Republic.

History is a powerful resource and tool in our efforts to create justice today.  That’s why the Rural Organizing Project is organizing History from Below: Exploring Rural Oregon’s Social Movement History – a traveling workshop to engage rural and small town Oregonians in an exploration of moments in history when passionate, principled or simply fed-up people from rural Oregon have banded together in hopes of changing the course of history.  We hope your Human Dignity Group will consider sponsoring a tour stop in your community! 

Scroll down to learn more about the program and what it means to be a sponsor. 

Then, if you would like your community to be considered as one of our tour stops (or even if you just think your group might be interested), fill out our short online application by the June 1st deadline.

We’ll only be making a limited number of stops so don’t miss this opportunity to engage your community in a unique way!  




Deadline: Friday, June 1st

The Rural Organizing Project is looking for local groups in three rural or small towns to co-sponsor a tour stop of our new program:

History from Below: Exploring Rural Oregon’s Social Movement History.

What is History from Below?

History from Below is a traveling history workshop organized through the Rural Organizing Project to engage rural and small town Oregonians in an exploration of how ordinary and organized citizens from their own communities have shaped history.  Participatory workshops will invite participants to explore moments when passionate, principled or simply fed-up people from their community have banded together in hopes of changing the course of history at the local, state, (or in some cases) national level.   Workshops will focus on issues and historical social movements that are of relevance to the politics and socio-cultural dynamics facing rural Oregon’s communities today.  (Scroll down for for more details!

What does it mean to be a Sponsor? 

The Rural Organizing Project is providing overall coordination for the tour, including: securing workshop presenters and facilitators, preparing workshop content and materials, building and maintaining the tour website, creating templates for workshop flyers, announcements, invitations, local press releases, etc., and actively supporting local sponsors with all of the logistics and outreach tasks listed below.  Local sponsors are asked to:

  • Assign someone to be the primary contact person/liaison to ROP for organizing the local workshop tour stop.
  • Help secure a location for the workshop (must be ADA accessible).
  • Help secure homestays for workshop presenters/facilitators.
  • Assist with historical research (optional – but this part will be the most fun!).
  • Do local outreach and publicity for the workshop.  This may include:
    • posting flyers around town
    • contacting local newspapers and radio stations
    • spreading the word through e-mail listservs and social media
    • contacting libraries, schools, faith communities, professional associations, etc.
    • making reminder calls to potential participants
  • Help with set up and clean up the day of the workshop.
  • Provide light refreshments for the workshop.
What is the Timeline?

Planning starts now!  The actual date and time of the workshop will be arranged in coordination with the Sponsoring community, but will likely be on a weekday evening sometime between the end of July and the beginning of October.

How can we bring the History from Below tour to our town?

Fill out the short application for tour sponsors by Friday, June 1st. ROP will make the final selection for tour stops by early June.   Contact our project director Sarah K. Loose (, 503-367-0157) if you have any questions about the program or application.

History from Below:

Exploring Rural Oregon’s Social Movement History

 Whether it’s Wisconsin’s union members and students taking over their Capitol Building to protect the right to organize, Tea Party activists flooding congressional phone lines over the national debt, or youth and the unemployed occupying Wall Street to speak out against deepening economic inequality, the past year has seen an upsurge in popular protest.  Ordinary people across the country are exercising their rights to free speech and popular assembly in the hopes of shaping the course of our nation’s history.  Rural Oregonians are no exception.  For instance, Oregon has more “Occupy” sites in rural and small towns than any other state in the nation.  Indeed, at critical moments in Oregon’s history, rural communities have been sites of unconventional and noteworthy social movement activity.  Drawing on the disciplines of history, sociology and political science,Rural Oregon’s History from Below will make the connections between past and present, inviting rural Oregonians from all walks of life and political persuasion to use the humanities to understand how an engaged and active citizenry in their own, local communities has, at different points in the past, shaped the course of history.

This program comes out of an ongoing, community-based oral history project coordinated through the Rural Organizing Project to collectively document, critically analyze and publicly disseminate the history of grassroots, progressive organizing in rural Oregon over the past 25 years.   With History from Below, we are excited about sharing original historical research and fostering dialogue around deeply political issues with people of different political backgrounds and viewpoints.  Indeed, we see the exchange of ideas across lines of ideology and identity as critical to the development of a vibrant democracy.  Past ROP programs (such as our Roundtable Dialogues for a Democratic Economy) have brought together diverse sectors, across political lines, to address critical rural issues.  More recently, Tea Party activists accepted Occupy Mosier’s invitation to join them at the local occupation for a cup of tea and conversation.  The time is ripe for History from Below, which will encourage small town Oregonians to form their own opinions and analysis, and introduce historiography as a useful method for critical inquiry and civil dialogue around controversial social issues.

Program Objectives

  • Expose participants to the critical-historical method and whet their appetite for digging deeper into their community’s own history
  • Highlight the role that “ordinary” rural Oregonians can and have played historically in evolving the ideas, policies and decisions that inform and shape residents’ daily lives
  • Engage rural and small town community members of diverse political perspectives in a civil and meaningful conversation about issues of concern to contemporary social movements

Format, Content, and Audience

Participatory workshops will bring together 25-50 rural community members each in granges, libraries, historical societies, or sites of local historical interest to critically examine their own community’s social movement history.  We hope to attract an audience representative of the diversity within Oregon’s rural communities that includes active participants in contemporary social movements, local community leaders, teachers, students and local history enthusiasts.  Each workshop will be held in a rural or small town in a different region of the state.

Professional archivists, historians, and scholars will work with local community leaders and the Project Coordinator to tailor workshop content for each host community.   Workshops will invite participants to explore moments when passionate, principled or simply fed-up people from their community have banded together in hopes of changing the course of history at the local, state, (or in some cases) national level.   Workshops will focus on issues and historical social movements that are of relevance to the politics and socio-cultural dynamics facing rural Oregon’s communities today.  A rough agenda for each 2-3 hour workshop:

  1. Opening Introductions
  2. Keynote Address/Presentation – Overview of Oregon’s social movement history, emphasizing local and rural manifestations (Populist movement, unemployed councils of the 1930s, the Granges, Chicano movement, etc.), and tailored to include historical content specific to each host community/county.
  3. Working Groups – Split into small groups of 4-6.  Each group will receive a packet of primary source documents (segments of an oral history interview, newspaper articles, photographs, letters, etc.) related to one aspect of local/rural social movement history and a set of questions to guide a collective, historical analysis of the materials.
  4. Short report-backs – each group shares 1-2 key insights or questions from their discussion
  5. Facilitated Discussion – Project Coordinator facilitates an open, seminar-style discussion with the full group, exploring the connections between past and present.
  6. Concluding Remarks

With this program, we hope to engage rural Oregonians in an active and meaningful exploration of their own communities’ histories—and in thoughtful dialogue about popular expressions of grassroots organizing in today’s sociopolitical milieu.

Documentation to Expand our Reach

Careful documentation will allow us to share program content and supplementary materials with a broader audience in a multi-media, online format.  A tour website will share information, archives and research on the history of social movements in rural Oregon, and include audio-visual documentation of the workshops themselves.

This program was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH’s grant program.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email