So let’s talk about something. America has a month devoted to African-American history (February). Most teachers and school districts these days fall in line with this and do at least a few activities relating to the theme.
The problem? Teachers, and schools, tend to focus on the Big Five:
(Paraphrases of inaccurate comments I’ve heard from schoolchildren in parenthesis.)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
(that guy who dreamed the Civil Rights Movement. Oh and they shot him. That’s sad.)
(King’s wife who sat down on the bus. She was so tired she just couldn’t get up again!)
(they let him play baseball with the white guys, and he was good at it.)
(she freed all the slaves, so Lincoln almost had nothing left to do later.)
And of course, Abraham Lincoln
(he’s white, but he helped the slaves so much. Oh and they shot him. That’s sad.)
Sometimes Nelson Mandela is thrown in, even though he is African, not African-American!
There are a few reasons for this. African-American history and culture is so ignored by the mainstream culture, I’ve actually encountered people who don’t know that there were other notable blacks.
And of course, many teachers have fond warm fuzzies for their own childhood classrooms and are trying in some manner to emulate the way they were taught. And back when most of us were young, black history was not taught very well, if at all.
This February, I have a challenge for you: teach kids about three NEW black history figures. Three people whom you’ve never heard of, or have never taught in the classroom. It can be as simple as reading a picture book biography.
If you aren’t a teacher or parent, then I challenge you to learn about new African American figures yourself. Your own interests and hobbies can be a starting point, whether you look for African-American athletes, artists, inventors, novelists, explorers, or historical figures.
Even if you only learn about three new people every year, in ten years you will know 34 different important African-Americans! And if we come together and pool our resources, then you can potentially learn so much more in a much shorter time-frame.