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Posts tagged ‘black history month’

Go beyond February. 5 ways for becoming a culturally competent communicator

Carter Woodson grew up in Virginia, moving to West Virginia at the age of 17 to attend high school. He worked as a coal miner while he studied part-time, eventually becoming a full-time student and graduating in 1897. He became a teacher and school administrator, later earning two college degrees from the University of Chicago and a doctorate from Harvard.

As a historian, Woodson established the Association for the Study of African American Life and History while advocating for the intentional and accurate teaching of African American and Black history, achievements, and accomplishments. And in 1926, he and other historians pioneered “Negro History Week” to encourage the telling of these stories beyond the lens of a Eurocentric perspective:

“For centuries we have been the victims of propaganda; and as long as the truth is denied a hearing there will always be strife among the members of the human family, and disorder like the present in which the world now finds itself will always be possible.”

This truth, Woodson claimed, was

“overlooked, ignored, and even suppressed by the writers of history textbooks and the teachers who use them.”

Fifty years later, following the example of Black students at Kent State University, President Ford would establish Black History Month.

The hope was that Black History Month would provide a very intentional time for all of us to learn together the  contributions, challenges, and successes of African Americans; incorporating our present, the past 400 years in North America, and the the thousands of years before that in Africa. But . . . the real hope was that the stories of people, events, and places, routinely ignored, would be incorporated throughout the school year.

As educator, author, and activist Jose Vilson put it:

“. . . has it ever occurred to you that, as well-intentioned as (Black History Month) might be, we ought to take the next step and celebrate Black history on March 1st as well?”

I’m guessing we’re all in agreement on the going beyond February business. The question now becomes how to do what Woodson dreamed of and Vilson advocates.

Do I have all the answers? Not even close. But there are a lot of very smart people out there who do. What have I learned and continue to learn? Read more

It’s Black History Month: 5 suggestions from the National Museum of African American History (and a list of resources)

It’s February. Black History Month.

And I gotta be honest. I’m always a bit conflicted about the idea. The concept of a month specifically set aside for the study of Black History started back in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” That particular week was chosen because it marked the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

In 1976, the federal government followed the lead of the Black United Students at Kent State and established the entire month of February as Black History Month. President Ford urged Americans, and especially teachers and schools, to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

The hope was that Black History Month would provide a very intentional time for all of us to remember together the struggles of African Americans to obtain the basic civil rights afforded to others, the challenges African Americans have faced for centuries, and the contributions of African Americans to who we are. But . . . the real hope was that the story of essential people, events, and places, routinely ignored, would be incorporated throughout the school year.

Recent movies such as Selma and Marshall and books such as Hidden Figures do a great job of creating a sense of a specific time period, of overt racism and violence, the need for supporting the right to vote, the courage of individuals, the thought process behind events, and the accounts of everyday people going about their everyday lives.. The message of Black History Month remains – that the quest for equality and dignity in the United States was difficult and dangerous. And that the extraordinary work of ordinary folks such as John Lewis, Jimmie Lee Jackson, and Amelia Boynton Robinson still isn’t finished.

But I’m still a bit conflicted.

Jose Vilson, teacher and activist,  Read more

Tip of the Week: Black History Month 2015

Okay. I gotta be honest.

Much of what you are about to read is two years old. My thinking hasn’t changed much since February 2013 and well . . . I’m not sure I could write it a whole lot better anyway. So the message and much of the text is the same. The resources are updated.

Enjoy.

———— Read more

Tip of the Week: Black History Month Resources 2014

Okay. I gotta be honest.

Much of what you are about to read is a year old. My thinking hasn’t changed much since February 2013 and well . . . I’m not sure I could write it a whole lot better anyway. So the message and much of the text is the same. The resources are updated.

Enjoy.

————

To be honest, I’m a bit torn about the whole idea of Black History Month. The concept started back in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History announced the second week of February to be “Negro History Week.” That particular week was chosen because it marked the birthday of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

The hope was that the week would eventually be eliminated when black history became fundamental to American history teaching. In 1976, the federal government followed the lead of the Black United Students at Kent State and established the entire month as Black History Month. President Ford urged Americans, and especially teachers and schools, to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

The hope was that essential people, events, and places, routinely ignored, would be incorporated throughout the school year as part of social studies instruction.

But I’m torn. Read more

Freedom Riders

  • A twelve year old girl trying to help by carrying glasses of water to victims of a firebombed bus while a mob of Klu Klux Klan members surged around her.
  • Alabama governor, John Patterson, railing against “outside agitators – black men and white women” who were coming to Alabama to rile up the “good people of local communities” by riding a bus together.
  • College students signing their last will and testament before stepping onto a bus headed to Alabama and Mississippi, expecting to be beaten and killed.
  • Bull Conner, the police commissioner of Birmingham, cutting a deal with the KKK promising 15 minutes to “burn, bomb, kill, maim, I don’t give a god-damn what you do. I will guarantee that not one soul will be arrested in the 15 minutes” after Freedom Riders got off the bus.
  • A reporter not wanting to look black Freedom Riders in the eye as they entered a “Whites Only” waiting area, knowing that death for the Riders was very likely just minutes away. And later stepping between the Riders and members of a Birmingham mob in an attempt to keep that from happening.

The Freedom Rides of 1961 happened a long time ago. And for your students, the events of that summer seem absolutely ancient. But the PBS special, Freedom Riders, that aired last year as part of the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides is an incredibly powerful tool for helping your kids understand the context of the Civil Rights movement.

PBS does a wonderful job of combining oral interviews from participants, photos, news footage, newspaper coverage, and video clips to create a truly engaging and emotional documentary. The film helps put a human face on both those fighting for civil rights and those fighting to retain the entrenched culture of Jim Crow.

At an hour and 51 minutes, the video is too long for a single classroom period. And, normally, I suggest that very few movies are good enough and powerful enough to show in their entirety. While it would be possible to chunk pieces of this story out, Freedom Riders just may be the exception.

PBS has maintained the Freedom Riders site with its access to teacher materials such as a study guide, instructional materials and links to related resources at EDSITEment. You can find tons of background information on the riders, the context of the period, and a handy timeline. The video is showing on PBS throughout the month of February but you can also stream in directly off the PBS site.

Freedom Riders is a story of amazing courage and bravery. Of racism and extreme bigotry, of cruelty. Simple acts of kindness. Of turning the other cheek and turning a blind eye.

Ultimately, it is a story of America. At its best and its worst. And it’s a story that our kids need to hear.

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