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The Knotted Line

Evan Bissell, Author

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Timeline of Resistance

Download: The Knotted Line Curriculum

Foundational Understandings

  • The relationship between resistance and oppression is important in understanding what happened at a given historical moment.
  • Different understandings are revealed when history is studied chronologically compared to when it is studied by the relationships between events/forces/themes throughout time.
  • Historical narratives are often framed by “the winner” or dominant society, and bury other stories. Anyone can be a part of creating and uncovering the other stories.

Essential Questions 

  • Who tells the story of history?
  • Who in the past has fought for you?


  • Participants will explore U.S. history through the lens of resistance and oppression.
  • Participants will develop critical thinking around who tells history.
  • Participants will trace connections between themselves and the past.
  • Participants will expand their understanding of the connections between historical and current struggles for freedom in the U.S.

Facilitator Preparation

Review the Timeline of Resistance complete list and add or adjust as needed for your group.

Core Standards

Analyze in detail a series of events described in a text; determine whether earlier events caused later ones or simply preceded them.
Compare the point of view of two or more authors for how they treat the same or similar topics, including which details they include and emphasize in their respective accounts.
Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.
 Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.


Length of Time:  Two 55-minute sessions
Recommended Age Range: 14-23
Ideal Number of Participants: 15-30

Materials Needed:


Session 1

1. Create a “timeline” along your longest available wall using a piece of tape/string/etc. If there aren’t walls, use string and clothespin to create your timeline.
2. Cut up the Timeline of Resistance dates  from the The Knotted Line and tape them on the timeline on the wall.
3. Cut up the events (one per sheet) from the Timeline of Resistance text print out.
4. Make copies of Timeline of Resistance complete list for all participants.

Part 1: Personal Connection & Reflection, Developing the Reason to Learn

Introductions & Inspiration

10 minutes
Facilitator begins a go-around in which each person shares their name and someone who has inspired them in U.S. history. A facilitator captures the inspirations on a board or flipchart paper.
What do we notice about this list of people who have inspired us?
Who is represented? Where are they from?
Who isn’t on this list?

Part 2: Develop the Concept, Move from the Personal to the Theoretical

Historical Narrative: The Lion & The Hunter

10 minutes
The facilitator puts up a flipchart paper with the following quote and asks a participant to read it out loud:
"Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt shall always glorify the hunter." (Ewe-Mina proverb, West Africa)
Facilitator prompts discussion:
What does this mean?
Who could be the lions at different points in U.S. history? Who are the hunters?
Think of an example historical event in the U.S.—reflect on the narrative of Thanksgiving. How does this proverb apply to the way that story is told in the U.S.?
What would it be like if we learned U.S. history from the perspective of the lion? What would change?

Part 3: Active Experimentation with new knowledge and concepts

Introducing the Timeline of Resistance

35 minutes
(5 min) The facilitator points out the timeline on the wall, made of string/tape with dates in bold on pieces of paper along it:
The timeline up on the wall goes from 1493 to 2012. This is a timeline of resistance, highlighting key moments of freedom fighters and U.S. history from a perspective of people’s movements for social change. As we just discussed, there are different lenses through which to look at history and thus see different things from different angles...our lens for this activity is resistance.
How would you define resistance? What is it?
Note participant responses and then compare them to a visible definition of resistance. (Resistance: The action or power to oppose, withhold from, withstand, not comply or refuse something.) What is different, missing, similar?
(15 min) Each participant receives a piece of paper with one event from the Timeline of Resistance.
Participants find two other people with events that they believe have some connection to theirs and form a small group.
In the groups of three, participants share their events and discuss what they see as the connections between these events. Choose one person to represent the group.
Facilitator Note: As participants get into groups of three, hand out one copy of the complete Timeline of Resistance to each group.
(5 min) Groups receive a handout of the full Timeline of Resistance.
After finding their events on the timeline handout, they place their events on the appropriate dates on the timeline up on the wall.
(5 min) Each group representative shares briefly about the connections between the moments.

Session 2

1. Project or write out the Gramsci quote (see below).
2. Participants should have Timeline of Resistance complete list.

Intro - Timeline viewing

10 minutes
Participants review and read through different elements of the timeline. Facilitator then asks for 3-4 reflections on:
Is this similar/different than the list of inspirational people we came up with before?
How does this relate to the quote about the lion and hunter?
Do any of these moments surprise you?

Going Deeper

20 minutes
Read or project the following quote by Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Marxist who did much of his writing while imprisoned:
“The starting-point of critical elaboration is the consciousness of what one really is, and is ‘knowing thyself’ as a product of the historical process to date, which has deposited in you an infinity of traces, without leaving an inventory.  Therefore it is imperative at the outset to compile such an inventory.”
What phrases stand out to you? What does this mean in your own language? (Facilitator note: It’s helpful to break down the quote chunk by chunk. The core ideas being: knowing thyself, we are part of a historical process that we don’t fully see, that we know ourselves through creating an inventory of that history—such as a timeline, music, storytelling, art, etc).
Hand out the Timeline of Resistance: 
Next, you will begin to create your own inventory of the infinity of traces. Looking through the Timeline of Resistance, put a star next to 3-5 historical events on the timeline handout that you think have some connection to your life and who you are today. When looking for events, ask yourself:
-What events did my ancestors or family deal with that are mentioned here?
-How did this ripple out to affect me?
-What are events that I wasn’t already familiar with?
Once the instructions are clear, participants each star 3-5 moments and put their initials on the dates on the timeline on the wall.

Facilitator introduces the last element of the activity:
Now it’s time to extend into the future. Imagine a future moment of self-determination or resistance that you want to see happen—what will future generations benefit from?

Part 4: Integration of Concepts & Experience, Learners Representing New Knowledge in their Own Voice

Tracing the Connections

25 minutes
Thinking back to the Gramsci quote, you will next create an inventory of these traces by designing a tattoo. Tattoos can be poems or drawings, but they should tell a story of how your chosen moments have left a trace on you, your community, or your family. They might also include the vision of the future moment you created.

Facilitator hands out Infinity of Traces Tattoo worksheets, colored pencils or other art supplies.
This workshop is adapted from one created by Josh Healey for use with The Knotted Line.

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