Celebrating Black History Month
The month of February provides an open invitation to engage in and learn about the contributions of African Americans in American History. This is a time to help all students understand and revere the rich heritages that are theirs individually and collectively. John Hope Franklin, professor, author and chairman of the advisory board for One America: The President’s Initiative on Race, said, “We must go beyond textbooks, go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.”
That is what Carter G. Woodson believed. The son of former slaves, he spent his formative years in the coal mines of West Virginia—working to make a living for his family and himself. Woodson taught himself English and mathematics and later studied in colleges and universities in the United States and abroad. He became known as “the father of Black History.” Woodson dug deeply into the black experience, like the coal miners of this time, to extrapolate the richness of his people, culture and history. “Truth comes to us from the past like gold washed down from the mountain,” he said. He believed that one had to look back in order to move forward. It was these ideas and experiences that, in 1926, led him to initiate what was to become Black History Month.
Many school districts that have diverse student populations only incorporate a ‘heroes and holidays’ type curriculum that does not incorporate the achievements of non-European Americans. Research indicates that cultural diversity in schools and in the curriculum helps prepare students for living in a multicultural society and an interdependent world. Through an integrated curriculum that represents cultural competency including art, music, dance, economics, literature, mathematics, science, athletics, and world history, teaching and learning can be made a richer and a more complete experience for all students.
Challenges communities to help transform public schools with investment of time and resources
WASHINGTON—In observance of Black History Month, the National Education Association is issuing a challenge to its members and community partners to use this month to develop an action plan for change to ensure the future legacy of our country and our students.
“Despite years of progress, for far too many of our students, the hopes and dreams of past generations are still unfilled. We’ve got to invest time and resources in transforming our public schools and it starts with local programs and activities,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “President Obama said we need to invest in the skills and education of our people. He didn’t say that we have to wait for lawmakers to make it happen, we all have the power to begin now to develop programs and provide support that will be the catalyst for change in our public schools.”
NEA has a number of resources and tools that are available for individuals and groups that will assist them in not only identifying an issue in their community but in implementing a substantive plan of action. There are critical needs in the areas of (click on each topic to get more information):
As part of its Black History Month activities and its ongoing mission to create great public schools for ALL students, NEA,Tavis Smiley and the America I AM: The African American Imprint exhibition have joined forces to offer educators an historically relevant, culturally diverse curriculum for use in classrooms across the country. The America I AM lesson plans, activity sheets and other learning materials are available free of charge at www.AmericaIAM.org. The educational materials are tailored by grade level, covering grades 5 through 12, and can be used as a standalone history unit, or linked to other curricula including social studies, economics, math, art and literature. More information can be found at:
Updated: February 2, 2010 8:37 AM