- Number of participants = 10 – 20
- Theme = History, colonialism, racism
- Duration = 60+ minutes
- Difficult for participants = Level 2
- Difficulty for facilitator = Level 4
Participants make a collective timeline of events that mark developments of the concept of human rights regarding Black People and People of Colour from 2000 BCE to the present day and speculating into the future. The method can be used to explore the history of any group of people.
- Right to education, including human rights education
- Right to life, liberty and personal security
- Freedom of religion and belief
- To develop knowledge about the development of human rights regarding Black People and People of Colour throughout history
- To develop communication skills and critical thinking
- To foster curiosity about human rights and a commitment to defend them.
- A roll of wide masking tape
- A 10-12 meter long wall
- Blocks of post-it notes in three different colours
- Flip chart and markers of different colours
- Computer or mobile phones for research (optional)
Read the background literature; become acquainted with the key dates to have an overview of the history of colonialism, racism and Black People and People of Colour.
Choose approximately ten key dates from the handout that you want to work with.
Add five relevant key dates from your country to show that in your country the same issues were/are also happening. The key dates should be connected in some way, for instances dates that focus on colonialism and post colonialism.
Based on the chosen dates, construct a timeline. Mark a long line on the wall with masking tape. It should be at eye level. The chosen period is based on the key dates. Start with the century from which you chose the first key date and end with the current year. Mark each century between on the timeline.
Note the instructions for the post-it notes on a flip chart, indicating which colour post-it note relates to which category.
Flow of the Exercise
Introduce participants to the timeline. Explain briefly that colonialism and racism were happening over the previous centuries. Mark today’s date on the timeline.
Explain to the group that their task is to fill out this timeline with events that relate to colonialism, racism and human rights regarding Black People and People of Colour. For instance, the birth or death dates of important people who made laws or fought for justice, the dates of events that changed people’s thinking about civil rights which triggered responses, and the making of laws or conventions that protect people’s rights.
Hand out post-it notes of each colour to each participant. Explain that the different colours represent different categories. For instance, blue for important events relating to human rights regarding Black People and People of Colour, yellow for important people or institutions and green for important documents and laws. Note these categories on the flip chart for future reference (if you haven’t already).
Explain than the events can be local, regional, national or international. Participants should start by working individually, trying to think of one person, one event and one law or convention each. They should write the date and the name of the event or person on the post-it note of the appropriate colour, and then place it on the timeline.
The aim is for each participant to put up at least three post-it notes and for the group as a whole to get as many different events as possible. Therefore, if someone finds a particular
event which is already posted, he/she will have to think of another. If someone is really stuck, he/she may consult friends or the Internet.
Encourage participants to be inspired by dates that others have posted. If anyone wants to post up more than three dates, they may.
When the work is slowing down, ask participants to gather round and review the posts. Ask members of the group to explain or elaborate on their choice of dates.
- Was it easy to find information for the timeline? What were good sources?
- Which piece of information did people find the most interesting, surprising or shocking? Why?
- What have been the major forces behind the development of human rights regarding Black People and People of Colour throughout history?
- Is it important to know about the history of human rights regarding Black People and People of Colour, colonialism and racism? If so, why?
- How is the situation for Black People and People of Colour and the former colonised countries today? Are they still facing racism or inequality?
- What new rights will we need in the future?
Prepare labels with some of the dates and events given in the handout and use them as a quiz. Read out the name of the person, event or law and ask participants if they can guess the dates. Then put the labels on the timeline. Let these landmarks be an inspiration for the group.
Ask participants to find quotes from famous people, examples of music, art, literature, and sporting events that have promoted human rights regarding Black People and People of Colour. Add these to the timeline.
Implement the timeline for the history of your own country and add key dates regarding colonialism, racism and human rights regarding Black People and People of Colour to the timeline.
This exercise can also be used in an open space (during a seminar, in a classroom…), where the timeline can be completed at any time.
Possible Follow up Activities
Use one of the dates you have on the calendar as a pretext for getting together with other groups to hold an event to promote human rights.
If the group is interested in how ideas change and develop over time, they may like to do the method Soon to Be Outdated. Alternatively, in Path to Equality Land, participants explore issues of inequality, privileges, discrimination and racism through imagination and drawing, and try to overcome the inequality which they have observed through the timeline.
Illustrate the timeline with photographs or cartoons and exhibit it at an event; or set up a timeline at an open event and invite the public to participate.
If the group wants to continue talking about discrimination and racism in today`s world, you can use the method Do Not Act Like Me! which focuses on understanding discrimination, reflecting on your own prejudices and exploring your own experiences of interpersonal discrimination during everyday life.
Regarding the sensitivity of stereotypes, privilege, discrimination and racism, you can use the method What’s Your Single Story? afterwards. Alternatively, to discover what consequences arise from stereotypes, prejudice, oppression and discrimination, use Columbian Hypnosis, and in Image Theatre, participants can have a feeling for power dynamics, exploring these issues from their own experience.
Moreover, there should be the possibility to empower Black People and People of Colour who are facing racism. Provide a safe space just for them, help find and share coping strategies by using the method Empower Yourself, where individual experiences are shared among themselves about racism, identity, etc.
If there is someone in the group who is a history specialist, give him/her the task of checking the calendar. Be aware that there are more than 40 different calendars used in the world, including Chinese, Islamic, Hindu, Hebrew, Persian and Buddhist calendars. Therefore, dates can be confusing; for instance, 2010 in the Christian calendar is 1431 in the Islamic calendar. Thus, beware of the possible confusion about dates and use the confusion to draw out the intercultural dimension.
The method is a very good way to start a discussion about remembrance and the history of a person. To gather the information you need, search on the Internet. For example, put ‘timeline of Roma’, ‘timeline of Armenia’, ‘timeline of African Americans’ or ‘timeline Saami Lapland’ into any search engine to see how they compare.
Adapted from Council of Europe (2017). Compass: Manual for Human Rights Education with Young People. Timelines. Strasbourg.