Sep 2011 KTA: Group History

Write Human Dignity Group History!

Our history defines us.  It grounds us, keeping us rooted through the present and teaching us lessons for the future.  This month’s activity is to add your Human Dignity Group’s story to the collective history of rural Oregon’s grassroots movement for human dignity!

Knowing – and sharing – your Human Dignity Group’s story can build group identity, help new members feel more connected, honor long-time leaders, reveal progress in our struggle, and illuminate strategies for today’s organizing challenges.

This Labor Day weekend, a team of volunteer oral historians start traveling the state.  From Pendleton to Port Orford, they will be interviewing local HDG activists for ROP’s Roots & Wings Oral History Project.  These leaders’ memories and reflections are one window into the history of rural Oregon’s human dignity organizing.  To these oral narratives, ROP hopes to add the histories of Oregon’s 60+ local Human Dignity Groups who, all combined, have centuries worth of collective organizing wisdom, victories and stories. Imagine an online montage showcasing our historical power and progressive impact!


1.  Decide how to tell your group’s history.  A great first step is to put together a simple timeline.  The next time your group is together, brainstorm and record a list of memorable campaigns, actions, and decision points.  Organize them chronologically.  And if you want to go the extra mile, consider these additional options:

  • Select a few illustrative photos from each phase in your HDG history to add to your timeline.
  • Record an oral history with one of your group’s founding members.
  • Write your HDG’s origin story and history in a narrative format, perhaps structuring it by key phases in your group’s evolution.
  • Create your own HDG archive!  Collect and inventory your group’s archival documents, photos and ephemera.

2.  Decide who will be your group’s “lead historian” for thi s project.  This person doesn’t have to be someone who’s been involved since the beginning – in fact, this might be a great way for a new member to learn more about your group and contribute.  Have your group historian double check to make sure the dates and info in your timeline are accurate (old e-mails and newsletters are great for this – ROP might be able to help here, too; we’ve got archives saved from all of our member groups).  Add an explanatory sentence or two for each item on your timeline.  This will help people just learning about your group to understand the historical context and significance of your work.

3. Have your HDG Historian contact Sarah at ROP.  We want to know what you are up to!  We’re excited to act as a sounding board for your ideas – and point you toward archiving, interviewing and historical writing tools and resources that will help you realize your historical documentation dreams!

4.  Share your history!  Mail or e-mail your group’s timeline or history to ROP (PO Box 1350 Scappoose OR 97056).  Post it on your group’s facebook page, blog, or website (don’t have one?  Check out the June KTA).  Consider including it in your next HDG newsletter, sharing with your local historical society, newspaper, & library, or creating a photo exhibit to display at the local high school.