By Kimberly A. Morrow
Two years ago, my new principal asked me to spearhead our Black History Month activities. I was elated we would finally celebrate this nationally recognized month.
I respected that in my predominantly white high desert town, where only 8.4 % of the population is Black, our principal, a young white woman who recently relocated to the high desert, was the person recommending we celebrate it.
She understood how important it is for all students to learn Black history. Like me, she was aware of the distorted view of African Americans that many people of other ethnicities hold. This distorted view is a result of the way in which Black people are mentioned in textbooks and currently taught in classrooms. Black people are often only mentioned in the context of slavery, segregation and civil rights. Students have a false belief that all Black people were slaves, poor, uneducated and fighting for their rights.
They have no idea that there were free blacks living in the South before slavery ended. They are not taught that Black people pursued advanced degrees, and owned property and businesses long before slavery ended. To broaden our students’ perspectives, I enthusiastically accepted the task of spearheading our Black History Month Activities.
Since my classes were studying the Industrial Revolution, I created a lesson that aligned with the 10th grade world history and Common Core standards. The first part of my students’ assignment was to research African American inventors and entrepreneurs. Many of my students were astonished to learn the numerous ways in which African Americans have contributed to history. Even today, I still smile as I recall how surprised one of my students was when she learned a Black man named Granville T. Woods invented the roller coaster. She was equally amazed when she read that he was known as “the Black Edison.”
Schoolwide, we had a door-decorating contest designed to teach the student body about Black history through images. Each teacher had their classes decorate their doors according to their subject matter. My students designed several doors all relating to Black history and Black inventors. I was blown away by the level of commitment, interest and creativity our students demonstrated throughout the month of February 2019.
A few tips for parents on teaching Black History:
- Begin with your child’s interest and have them research African Americans who have done or are doing what they desire to do.
- Have them create a project such as a play, video, art project, invention, etc.
- When teaching literature, provide students with great American literature written by Black writers such as Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates and Kiley Reid.
- When teaching math and science, refer to Black scientists and mathematicians such as Katherine Johnson, Kelly Miller, and others.
Kimberly A. Morrow, M.Ed., is an author, educator and advocate.