Today marks the beginning of Black History Month. Growing up this was always the month we learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and the history of slavery in America. Occasionally Harriet Tubman was highlighted, but to be honest, nothing was impacting enough that I retained it or it wasn’t discussed.
I don’t think my experience is unique. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in a predominately white neighborhood, although by middle school and high school my classes all included students of various races our textbooks didn’t necessarily reflect the faces in the room.
Here’s the Thing
I believe my teachers were doing the best they could with the materials they were provided. Textbooks take years to write and even longer to get into circulation.
President Gerald Ford was the first President to celebrate Black History Month in 1976.
1976 is the first time that, as a country, time was consciously devoted to acknowledging the contribution of one minority group. We haven’t been doing this very long and somewhere in there white people decided to start saying racism no longer existed.
Times Have Changed
The first time I learned about George Washington Carver’s contribution to the United States was in a book by Andy Andrews.
A quick Google search will pull up many of George Washington Carver’s accomplishments which include agricultural breakthroughs “increasing soil fertility without commercial fertilizers, and growing alternative crops along with the ubiquitous cotton.” (source)
Carver understood the importance of farming for the south and dedicated his life to teaching farmers how to get the most from the soil AND what to do with the crops they grew. Carver is the inventor of many products including PEANUT BUTTER!
Here’s My Point
It’s great that we spend a month highlighting each minority group. I’m thankful for the spotlight and believe it should not only continue, but evolve. But we shouldn’t be only highlighting minorities within their designated month.
I believe our schools have the opportunity to set examples in this area. Supplemental information is accessible free of charge for every history and humanities unit. This is an excellent opportunity to teach students how to dig deeper. We can teach them how to research facts and consider the stories around the facts.
So let’s celebrate the amazing contributions of Black Americans this month, but let’s take it further and celebrate the contributions every day. Let’s make 2018 the year that we make the effort to consider the whole story, not just the paragraph in the textbook.