If you were born after the polarizing presidential election of 2000, you have always known an America locked in a clash between urban/liberal/Democratic "blue" states and rural/conservative/Republican "red" states. But American history paints a more complicated picture: one that includes fiery leftist rural populism, “Old Money" industrial conservatism concentrated in East Coast cities, Black activism in the rural South and Native activism in the rural West, and many immigrant stories that changed the character of both urban and rural areas.
In this class we will look at how we got to this moment historically, and then examine the issue from a current events perspective, with a special focus on the elections of 2016 and 2020.
o The farm crisis of the 1980s, which displaced thousands of family farmers in the Midwesto Media portrayals of Appalachia and the rural South o The politics and economics of food and agriculture o The Electoral College and how it favors rural states, and by extension white Americanso Gerrymandering and how it has recently favored Republican districtso Wealth inequality in America, and how it impacts both urban and rural districts
One focus of this class will be the town of Postville, a small community in Iowa that was at the nexus of many of these issues. Like many rural Midwestern towns, Postville was facing population loss and economic decline, until a group of Hasidic Jews from New York started a kosher slaughterhouse there. The slaughterhouse employed many immigrants, creating an unprecedented level of religious and cultural diversity in this previously homogeneous community. But in 2008, the slaughterhouse was the site of a massive immigration raid, which led to the deportation of hundreds of Postville residents and put the town's economy back in a state of uncertainty. Postville's experience illustrates many of the challenges and opportunities facing rural America.
Instructor: Laura Fokkena
Suggested age range: 13+
Outside work: Movies and outside reading.
When & where: Fridays at Voyagers in Chelmsford (directions) from 11:00-12:00, Sept. 20-Dec. 13, 2019. No class Nov. 29 (Thanksgiving break).
Fee: $250 for the semester, which includes a non-refundable registration fee of $10. Please read our media policy. $10 discount for Voyagers members. Payment plans available. Fees waived for families with financial need. (Waivers and payment plan information.)
Photo credits: Laura Fokkena and Ute Brandenburg