RELATED NEWS: Library programs showcase black history
* * *
“It’s Black History Month,” I said last Friday to more than 200 middle-school students.
“The only way to get a thing done is to start to do it,” I read from a sheet of paper. “Because it’s Black History Month, our quote of the day comes from Langston Hughes.”
Shortly after I spoke, I walked away a little uninspired. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a Langston Hughes fan. But why did I wait until February to introduce my favorite writer to a group of mostly black students? Moreover, why did I wait to start thinking of ways to introduce black history to my own children?
I suppose I could blame my own history and my own past.
Growing up, black history was always reserved for the month of February. The only exception was that small section in every history book – the little section that talks about the civil rights era while leaving out everything else African Americans did.
But now that I have children, that short section is not enough.
Over the weekend, I asked my Facebook friends what they thought children should know about black history.
With the exception of one foolish comment, 17 friends offered five things to consider:
1. Black history should not be reserved or sanctioned one month a year. As one Facebook friend put it, “I appreciate the idea of Black History Month, but I’d rather a more concerted effort to understand black history as an essential part of American history.
2. Go beyond grade-school textbooks. Yes, we should know that Martin Luther King Jr. marched and Rosa Parks sat, but black history goes far beyond that. Tell the stories of “Granville Woods, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells and Nat Turner,” another said.
3. Black history is more than a bunch of historic figures, said a third Facebook friend. Our children need to “learn more about how black history has affected the current times.”
4. Purchase literature by black authors. “African American writers are hugely misrepresented in our school systems,” according to another Facebook friend. “It is important that they (African American students) are given access to writers who speak to issues they relate to.”
5. Black or African history did not start in America. “Teach African philosophy,” a Facebook friend suggested. “The same time Plato and Aristotle were around, there were black philosophers.”
* * *