‘We Make History’ Wins NCPH Outstanding Public History Project Award: UMass Amherst
“We Make History”, a collaborative project between the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) and a team of professors from Smith College and UMass Amherst, including Professor Diana Sierra Becerra from the History Department and History Program from UMass Amherst, has won one of the most important awards in the field of public history: the National Council of Public History (NCPH) Outstanding Public History Project Award. The prize annually recognizes projects that contribute “to a broader public reflection and appreciation of the past or that serve as a model for the professional practice of public history”. As the main national professional organization in the field of public history, the CNPH strives to make the past useful to the present and to promote collaboration between historians and the public.
The $2.3 million project, “We Make History,” uses history as an organizing tool to mobilize domestic workers nationwide. The project puts the story of domestic workers in the hands of domestic workers – and brings to the public the rich tradition of organizing domestic workers for a fairer economy and democracy. From 2018 to 2021, NDWA worked closely with activist scholars Jennifer Guglielmo, Michelle Joffroy and Diana Sierra Becerra to produce a multimedia suite of tools available in six languages: English, Spanish, Tagalog, Nepali, Brazilian Portuguese and Haitian Creole . It includes a digital timeline on the history of the domestic worker organization, four educational videos, biographies and hand-painted portraits of twenty-one ancestors of the movement, and a website for program facilitators. The materials enable domestic workers to organize for better working conditions and they educate audiences interested in labor history and women’s history. From September 2020 to May 2021, Sierra Becerra trained a cohort of sixteen domestic worker leaders as labor historians. By May 2022, forty NDWA affiliate organizations will have taught and graduated from the programme.
The National Council of Public History describes the “We Make History” project as a “stellar digital public humanities and social justice project that serves multiple functions and audiences; engages the past to advocate for a better future for domestic workers; and educates leaders and students. Exploring the history of the domestic worker movement, the documents reveal how systems of oppression shaped the sector, how organizers in past generations waged powerful campaigns to win recognition and respect, and built movements of liberation, and how history can inform the current strategies of organizers. build the power of the working class.
In the words of the proponent, the ‘We Make History’ project helps ‘today’s domestic workers identify with the long course of history and inspires contemporary strategies based on past experience. It is an inspiring example of activists and public historians coming together to create a story that not only inspires but actively creates social change.
Follow the project on Instagram.