For ten years, the nonprofit Voice of Witness has illuminated contemporary human rights crises through its remarkable oral history book series. Founded by Dave Eggers, Lola Vollen, and Mimi Lok, Voice of Witness has amplified the stories of hundreds of people impacted by some of the most crucial human rights crises of our time, including men and women living under oppressive regimes in Burma, Colombia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe; public housing residents and undocumented workers in the United States; and exploited workers around the globe. This selection of narratives from these remarkable men and women is many things: an astonishing record of human rights issues in the twenty-first century; a testament to the resilience and courage of the most marginalized among us; and an opportunity to better understand the world we live in through human connection and a participatory vision of history.
For more than six decades, Israel and Palestine have been the global focal point of intractable conflict, one that has led to one of the world’s most widely reported yet least understood human rights crises. In their own words, men and women from West Bank and Gaza describe how their lives have been shaped by the conflict. Here are stories that humanize the oft-ignored violations of human rights that occur daily in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The men and women in this oral history collection reveal the human rights abuses occurring behind the scenes of the global economy. These narrators—including phone manufacturers in China, copper miners in Zambia, garment workers in Bangladesh, and farmers around the world—reveal the secret history of the things we buy, including lives and communities devastated by low wages, environmental degradation, and political repression. Sweeping in scope and rich in detail, these stories capture the interconnectivity of all people struggling to support themselves and their families.
In the gripping first-person accounts of High Rise Stories, former residents of Chicago’s iconic public housing projects describe life in the now-demolished high-rises. These stories of community, displacement, and poverty in the wake of gentrification give voice to those who have long been ignored, but whose hopes and struggles exist firmly at the heart of our national identity.
Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated
After spending years behind bars, hundreds of men and women with proof of their innocence- including 120 from death row- have been released from America’s prisons. Finally free, usually after more than a decade of incarceration, they re-enter society with nothing but the scars from a harrowing descent into prison only to struggle to survive on the outside. Their stories are spellbinding, heartbreaking, unimaginable, and ultimately inspiring. After reading these deeply personal accounts, you will never look at the criminal justice system the same way.
Voices from the Storm: The People of New Orleans on Hurricane Katrina and Its Aftermath
In the late summer of 2005, Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, leveling entire cities and leaving others under vast amounts of water. Thousands of Americans were stranded on rooftops and in dangerous makeshift shelters. Stranded in a city submerged, the narrators of Voices from the Storm survived the devastation brought on by Hurricane Katrina only to find themselves abandoned- and even victimized- by their own government. These thirteen men and women of New Orleans recount, in astonishing and heartrending detail, the worst natural disaster in American history.
Underground America: Narratives of Undocumented Lives
They arrive from around the world for countless reasons. Many come simply to make a living. Others are fleeing persecution in their native countries. Millions of immigrants risk deportation and imprisonment by living in the U.S. without legal status. They are living underground, with little protection from exploitation at the hands of human smugglers, employers, or law enforcement. Underground America, the third book in the Voice of Witness series, presents the remarkable oral histories of men and women struggling to carve a life for themselves in the U.S.
Out of Exile: The Abducted and Displaced People of Sudan
Millions of people have fled from conflicts and persecution in all parts of this Northeast African country, and thousands more have been enslaved as human spoils of war. In this book, refugees and abductees recount their escapes from war, from political and religious persecution, and from abduction by paramilitary groups. They describe life in the major stations on the “refugee railroads”: in the desert camps of Khartoum, the underground communities of Cairo, the humanitarian metropolis of Kakuma refugee camp, and the still-growing internally displaced persons camps in Darfur.
En Las Sombras de Estados Unidos: Narraciones de Inmigrantes Indocumentados
Millones de inmigrantes arriesgan deportación y encarcelamiento simplemente por trabajar y vivir en los Estados Unidos sin estatus legal. Viven en la clandestinidad, con poca protección contra la explotación a manos de contrabandistas de personas, empleadores, y autoridades. En las Sombras de los Estados Unidos presenta las historias orales de los hombres y las mujeres que luchan por tener una mejor vida en los Estados Unidos.
Hope Deferred: Narratives of Zimbabwean Lives
The fifth volume in the Voice of Witness series presents the narratives of Zimbabweans whose lives have been affected by the country’s political, economic and human rights crises. This book asks the question: How did a country with so much promise- a stellar education system, a growing middle class of professionals, a sophisticated economic infrastructure, a liberal constitution and an independent judiciary – go so wrong?
Nowhere to Be Home: Narratives from Survivors of Burma’s Military Regime
Decades of military oppression in Burma have led to the systematic destruction of thousands of ethnic minority villages, a standing army with one of the world’s highest number of child soldiers, and the displacement of millions of people. Nowhere to be Home is an eye-opening collection of oral histories exposing the realities of life under military rule. In their own words, men and women from Burma describe their lives in the country that Human Rights Watch has called “the textbook example of a police state.”
Patriot Acts: Narratives of Post-9/11 Injustice
A groundbreaking collection of oral histories, Patriot Acts tells the stories of men and women who have been needlessly swept up in the War on Terror. The eighth book in the Voice of Witness series, Patriot Acts illuminates these experiences in a compelling collection of eighteen oral histories from men and women who have found themselves subject to a wide range of human and civil rights abuses—from rendition and torture to workplace discrimination, bullying, FBI surveillance and harassment.
Inside This Place, Not Of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons
Inside This Place, Not of It reveals some of the most egregious human rights violations within women’s prisons in the United States. In their own words, the thirteen narrators in this book recount their lives leading up to incarceration and their experiences inside—ranging from forced sterilization and shackling during childbirth to physical and sexual abuse by prison staff. Together, their testimonies illustrate the harrowing struggles for survival that women in prison must endure.
The Power of the Story: The Voice of Witness Teacher’s Guide to Oral History
Voice of Witness is delighted to present The Power of the Story: The Voice of Witness Guide to Oral History, a free companion resource for teachers using titles in the Voice of Witness series. This comprehensive guide allows teachers and students to explore contemporary issues through the transformative power of oral history, and to develop the communication skills necessary for creating vital oral history projects in their own communities.
Throwing Stones at the Moon: Narratives from Colombians Displaced by Violence
For nearly five decades, Colombia has been embroiled in internal armed conflict among guerrilla groups, paramilitary militias, and the country’s own military. Civilians in Colombia face a range of abuses from all sides, including killings, disappearances and rape—and more than four million have been forced to flee their homes. The oral histories in Throwing Stones at the Moon describe the most widespread of Colombia’s human rights crises: forced displacement. Speakers recount life before displacement, the reasons for their flight, and their struggle to rebuild their lives.
Refugee Hotel is a groundbreaking collection of photography and oral histories by Gabriele Stabile and Juliet Linderman that documents the experiences of refugees in the United States. Evocative images are coupled with moving testimonies from men and women who have resettled in the United States from Burundi, Iraq, Burma, Somalia, Bhutan, and Ethiopia. In their narratives, they describe their first days in the US, the lives they’ve left behind, and the communities they have since created. Woven together, these remarkable stories and images are a testament to the complexity and magnitude of the refugee experience.