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Dec 2017
Vol 14 No 4
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8 Black History Study Strategies to Avoid by Jennifer Davis Bowman, Ed.D.

By Teachers.Net News Desk
 


A couple of weeks ago, I asked my oldest son what they do in school to honor Black History Month.  After shaking his head and moaning he  exclaimed, “we always watch these videos…”   Upon further prompting, my son explained how they watch the same video regarding the  infamous “I have a dream” speech.  Instantly, a tinge of discomfort ran through my body.  Wow, that was basically the same way (long, boring, ancient-like videos) that Black History month was recognized when I was in grade school.  To add salt to injury, I realized that my  curriculum with college students in my classes did not include as much intentional, embedded, connections to Black History (or even American History (please see number one from the list below) as it could.

After thinking about the curriculum that most educators (including myself) fall into during the month of February, I compiled a list of 8 things to avoid during the study of Black History:

1.     Isolating the Context
Try to avoid studying Black History in isolation from other course themes.  Remember that Black History is American History.  Remember that concepts such as humanity, power, socialization and law can be  drawn out and developed as it relates to your present curriculum.

2.    Emphasizing Colorblindness
It is natural to see color.  Psychology teaches us that in terms of first impressions, race and visible characteristics are the first things that catch our attention.  It is unnatural to pretend that people are all the same race, and thus the same color.  Embrace diversity and use it to facilitate teaching moments (for additional information on sensitivity to differences visit the website www.teachingtolerance.org).  Think about how boring it would be if all M&M candy were the same color or if all cell phone cases were the same color, or all houses were the same color…

3.    Limiting the Study to Well Known African American Leaders
We are all familiar with individuals such as Dr. King, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X.  We need to expose students to additional examples of African American Leaders.  Challenge your students to do an online search to find African American inventors, scientist, school leaders, engineers, etc.  Please refer students to websites such as www.kulturekids.org and the history channel’s www.history.com.

4.    Limiting the Study to Well Known African American Historical Events
I can’t think of one student that does not know the story about the 1960’s boycotts, sit-ins, or the remarkable underground rail road.  It is time to expand our student’s knowledge on little known facts about black history and we as educators have the opportunity to do this.

5.    Limiting the Study to Well Known African American Literature
As a young African American female, I grew up in awe of the writings of Maya Angelou.  My mom shared her collection of Langston Hughes writings with me.  We need to broaden the scope of African American books that our students are exposed to.  For children, a list of favorite African American stories is listed on a blog post from www.huffpost.com .  In addition, you can order true stories about people of color from www.brownsbooks.com.  For older students, you can find, a list of “10 African American Teen Books to Read Right Now” listed on www.amazon.com.

6.    Emphasizing Worksheets as the Frequently Used Method of
Delivery

We all love crossword puzzles and word searches, but we need to be more creative in our choice of supplementary materials.  As the digital age is taking over,  it would be a disadvantage to our students if we did not introduce them to kid-friendly websites such as www.urbantext.illinois.edu  and the “African American World” from www.pbs.org.  In addition, for older students, there are wonderful blog sites that share insights on topics related to African Americans such as www.josevilson.com and www.larryferlazzo.edublogs.com.

7.    Reliance on Lecture as the Only Method of Delivery
We all know that lectures are boring and after 15 minutes, the students tune out the teacher.  Instead of the traditional lecture, try a debate.  One topic for debate could target the use of Emit Till’s name in a rap song by Lil Wayne (some felt that the use of the historic figure was inappropriate while others felt that it spurred interest in learning about history).  Another topic of debate could focus on whether voter suppression (additional information can be found on www.nan.net ) was used during the re-election process of President Obama.

8.    Presenting One Dimensional Historical Accounts
Remember that history is complicated.  Try to paint as full of a picture as you can and thus do not rely on only one source to inform your students.  If you must play the “I have a dream” speech for your students, don’t just use it in isolation.  Add interviews of how people reacted to the speech, how individuals today spend MLK day, or even critical reviews of the speech.  If you are inclined to discuss Malcolm X, combine excerpts from the biography, clips from Spike Lee’s movie, and the perspectives of those who may have disapproved of his leadership methods.

About the author
Dr. Davis Bowman teaches Education and Psychology courses at the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati State College. She contributes regularly to the ASCD Edge blog as well as the SmartBlog for Education.  Please connect with her via email:  davisj5@mail.uc.edu

 

 



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This entry was posted on Monday, February 10th, 2014 and is filed under *ISSUES, Feb 2014. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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