For 41 years February has been designated as Black History Month, but the exact way to portray Black History continues to be challenged.
Shaun King of “New York Daily News” argues that because Black History is often introduced with the atrocities of slavery, it glosses over the legacy of African kingdoms and the lives of Blacks in the early days of the Americas.
“The 246 years of American slavery represent less than 1% of known black history from around the world,” King said in his article titled “Why Black History Month Should Never Begin with Slavery.”
The narratives that this limited viewpoint gives can be detrimental to the knowledge people have, but this structure doesn’t have to continue.
History teacher Jonathon Clemons hopes that educators illustrate how African American culture mixes with but is distinct from general American culture.
Lesson plans and activities in K-12 classrooms for Black History Month can be derived from various sources, such as the National Education Association. The NEA offers many instructional methods for African American culture, while also straying away from the typical themes of slavery and the civil rights movement.
One activity uses audio clips from jazz artists to introduce students to that music style and its Black influences. Others spotlight African American innovators and athletes.
Although the NEA may be a ray of hope for innovative teaching of Black History, UCLA details the United States history content standards which have very few sections dedicated to specifically Black events and its curriculum lacks descriptions of Black culture.
“What’s missing is how African Americans are suffering,” sophomore Joseph Cremona said. “You never hear their side most of the time.”
Cremona’s sentiments not only hold true for education, they also relate to how the media paints the picture of Black History.
“The New York Times” released a large series of photographs and stories titled “Unpublished Black History.” These insights into time periods from the past century look at the continuous struggles for acceptance in the United States.
Similarly, Clemons argues that American education should have more of a focus on social movements, such as the Anti-Apartheid movement and the Black Panthers, and the positive roles that African Americans have played throughout history instead of using their stories as side notes.
Lacking from the photographs and education seems to be the discussion of the current issues that face minorities of the U.S. today, such as higher incarceration rates and lower employment rates.
“They do teach us a lot about the past, but maybe more stuff about what’s happening now in society,” junior Arianne Raeanal said about what she believes is missing from her education on Black History.
Both educators and students have shown an interest in the views of Black History that have been ignored and how those development have impacted the world today.