Black History Month
About 35 years ago when I announced to my class of 6th graders that it was Black History Month, one very wise pupil asked, “Why does Back History get one month when white history gets all twelve?” And it’s true. Back then, in observance of the month, we pulled out facts and pictures of the usual Blacks: Wheatley, Banneker, Douglas, Tubman, Carver, Benjamin O. Davis, Esteban, Henson, MLK Jr, Matzeliger, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, Althea Gibson , to name a few. Some of us, but not enough of us, did try to incorporate Black history and literature into the curriculum.
Students today are apt to be unaware of the struggles of the past. They may be aware of the discrimination and riots in the south, but unaware that less than fifty years ago there were riots in Boston over school busing. Earlier this year when I subbed in a high school history class and the day’s lesson included television footage of this upheaval, they looked at me in shock and said, “But that was just 100 miles from here! I didn’t know things like that happened that close.”
Today students have the advantage of seeing a Black president, governor, justice. The teacher or principal in their school might be Black. They may read poetry and other literature written by Blacks. They may go to a Black doctor or dentist. If they are really fortunate, they might live in an integrated neighborhood. Even television, that great social arbiter is beginning to develop shows with realistic depictions of blacks. Some, like “Scandal,” break ground by starring Kerry Washington as a powerful person.
Even five years ago “42” and “Twelve Years a Slave” would not have made it into theaters. So slowly, ever so slowly, we are making progress. But we have years to go before we reach the point where Blacks are equal to Whites, and their history is our history.
© Dorothy C. Judd
Please forgive the fact that this piece was written quickly, without references, and leaves out more than it includes.
Next post: Monday, February 10