It is now the end of April, and students have not been taught about black history. In the month of February, black history month was not addressed. Since elementary school, students have learned about the significance of black history. Black history month has been celebrated in schools by plays, singing performances, parties, and students were even assigned a book about a famous African American of our history to study. Many students have questioned why black history has not been addressed this school year. Has black history escaped public education? Was it even in the curriculum in the first place? Teachers and students share their feelings about this.
A concerned student
Eighth grader, Tai’lah Smith does not understand why black history is not taught in our school. “Why haven’t we learned about black history yet?” she asks her social studies teacher. In response, Tai’lah claims that her social studies teacher told her that the students are just learning about “white history.” This bewildered Tai’lah, because she’s used to learning about black history, as well as celebrating black history month, which was also not acknowledged in our school. This student believes that learning about black history would benefit her by making her aware of our history’s African American leaders, the sacrifices they’ve made for us and how they affected today’s society. When asked if there was anything specific that she would like to learn about in black history, Tai’lah includes that she’d like to learn about what encouraged our history’s black leaders to keep fighting for what they deserved without giving up.
An upset student
“If black history was taught in school, students would learn the importance of it and want to get involved with history,” says eighth grader, Yaa-Yaa Afriyie. This student appears to be upset at the fact that black history isn’t taught in our school. She believes that students should be aware of how the past lead to the 21st century. When asked if there was anything specific that she’d like to learn about in black history, Yaa-Yaa says she would like to learn about the African American people of our past who don’t get as much recognition for the sacrifices they’ve made. In addition to what she’d like to learn in black history, she includes that the people she’d like to learn about are the ones who don’t get as much recognition as other famous African Americans such as Harriet Tubman, Martin Luther King Jr., Jackie Robinson, etc. This student also includes that students should be aware of the sacrifices that were made for blacks and whites to do majority of things together today.
8 Blue Social Studies Teacher
Ms. Nothstein, an eighth grade Social Studies Teacher, believes that black history should be taught in the sequence of history. “It’s hard to teach something in isolation,” she says. This social studies teacher mentioned that she ran a black history exhibition about five years ago, and the students’ lack of enthusiasm was great. Of the entire student body, only twenty-five students participated. She believes this was because the exhibition was not mandatory. To increase the number of students who participated in the exhibition, Ms. Nothstein decided to make this project mandatory for all seventh graders. She explains that on “Black History Night,” very few people attended the event and the students who did a project, presented it poorly. “Not a very good turnout,” she said. The following year, when Ms. Nothstein was beginning to put a new exhibition together, she was told that black history was not a part of the curriculum. “History shouldn’t be color coded,” Ms. Nothstein believes. This social studies teacher also believes that famous African Americans of the past should be recognized and addressed in the curriculum in their appropriate time period.
7 Tan English Language Arts Teacher
“Black history has never been in the curriculum,” says seventh grade ELA teacher, Ms. Stewart. She believes that if teachers push a subject onto students and teach them more about something that they don’t quite understand or rarely ever hear about, they’re bound to become more fascinated with the topic. This ELA teacher also believes that black history can be placed into any subject. Including math, for example, students could be taught to solve equations in world problems having to do with events that occurred in black history. From black history, she’d like for students to know that no matter what their background is, they can always achieve their goals. Ms. Stewart expresses that if black history was one of the focuses to the Board of Education, students’ curriculum would include all history instead of some of it.
Central Middle School´s Principal
Mrs. Green, CMS’s Principal, explains that teachers could feel a discomfort, not knowing how to address Black History to their students. “There are opportunities to teach Black HIstory, but it’s not mandatory,” she says. Mrs. Green also includes that most teachers only teach what they’re told to. This may prevent confusion from what students are supposed to be learning to prepare them for certain tests or exams coming up. “It’d be a beautiful thing if we stopped calling it Black HIstory, and start calling it American History,” she expressed. Mrs. Green believes that it takes one person to speak up about Black History for other people to hop on board. CMS’s Principal mentions the saying, “If you don’t know your history, it’ll come back.” Following this saying, she says, “If we don’t learn it, we can’t live a life to reflect it.” Teachers educate students about the history that created our country.
However, Black History is not specifically outlined for them to teach directly. Although this is so, Mrs Green believes, “As Americans, we need to know where we come from.”
Afriyie, Yaa-Yaa. Personal Interview. 15 March, 2016.
Green, Shan. Personal Interview. 22 April, 2016
Nothstein, Lisa. Personal Interview. 15 March, 2016.
Smith, Tai’lah. Personal Inetrview. 15 March, 2016.
Stewart, Tammy. Personal Interview. 21 March, 2016.