By Dr. David J. Childs
Northern Kentucky University
For too long the serious study of African American history and culture in public schools and universities has often been an afterthought. African American history courses are normally not a part of required curriculum but are often optional. When the topic is discussed in K-12 schools it is often relegated to a short lesson on slavery or a mention of the Civil Rights movement, the curriculum is often missing the rich study of African American history and culture. Topics such as the knowledge and wealth of ancient African empires (I.e. Kingdoms of Ghana, Mali and Egypt, as well as the ancient Timbuktu library), the Harlem Renaissance and the history of African American music are rarely mentioned. With the recent rise of racial tension and blatant prejudice and racism in our society it is time for educators on all levels to take the study of Black history and culture seriously.
A good place to start is an upcoming free online workshop for teachers entitled Teaching Black History and Culture: A Workshop for Educators. The event is sponsored by The Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement (housed at Northern Kentucky University) and the Thomas D. Clark Foundation. It is a “teach the teachers” professional development webinar workshop on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2021, 9 am.-3:30 p.m. The topic is teaching Black history and culture. Content for the workshop will include a student panel discussion, presentation on available resources and how to use them, presentation on inquiry-based pedagogy, introduction to new video teaching resources for classrooms, performance piece by students from Berea College and more. While this workshop is designed for educators, it is open registration for teachers in P-12 education, school administrators, faculty/staff, NKU students (especially those in education majors) and community members who may have an interest in these topics. Please register for this free workshop HERE.
Here are some other resources for teaching and learning African American History and Culture.
African American Music
Roots of African American Music at the Smithsonian Museum
The History Of African American Music
African American Song Library of Congress
History of Hip-Hop
The History of Hip-Hop: Fresh Air Features Interviews With Some of the Greatest Names in Hip-Hop History.
The Complete History of Hip Hop
Hip Hop History: From the Streets to the Mainstream
A New African American Identity: The Harlem Renaissance at the Smithsonian
An Introduction to the Harlem Renaissance
Sculpture Edmonia Lewis
Sculptor Edmonia Lewis Shattered Gender and Race Expectations in 19th-Century America
Edmonia Lewis: Explore the life and work of the acclaimed 19th-century African American and Native American sculptor.
The Fabulous Sculpture and Mysterious Life of Edmonia Lewis
The Lesser-Known History of African-American Cowboys
History of Black Cowboys
There Were Black Cowboys? Teaching the American West from a More Diverse Perspective
Lesson Plans and Teaching Resources
306: African-American History Online Curriculum for Middle & High School Bring History to Life in Your Classroom
Black History Month Lesson Plans and Teaching Resources
20 Black History Month Activities for February and Beyond
Black History Month Lessons & Resources, Grades K-5
Black History Buff Podcast
Eight Podcasts to Deepen Your Knowledge of Black History
Top 15 Black History Podcasts You Must Follow in 2020
A Code Switch Playlist For Black History Month
Black history is American history. Teaching our students Black history is necessary if we are to give them a complete understanding of the events of our nation’s past. Human history is complex and will always involve multiple perspectives. Therefore, it should be taught from multiple perspectives with room for young people to critically think about all the information they have been given. Further, when teachers only incorporate black history into a single unit in the month of February, they are perhaps unintentionally conveying that it’s not important to learn about in all the other months of the school year, but rather just a nice “theme” for Martin Luther King Jr. day. The resources provided make up a comprehensive list of materials that can easily be added into the classroom.
In the article some schools do offer African American studies. However, some schools don’t have a class or curriculum gear for black history. I do agree tat when it is taught in school that they are often shorter lessons. I also believe that these lessons are only taught during the black history holidays. I think this article had great information. I, myself, did not know about the ancient African empires.
Integrating black history into the core curriculum instead of making it an optional class is something that needs to take place. I also think that there need to be ways to extend the study of black history into communities.
Teaching Black History is something that needs to be more addressed in the classrooms. The importance of the past still affects the people around us, and we need to be more aware of that as a whole. After reading this article I took a lot of interest in this article, the reason being is because it mentioned the ancient African empires. I think this topic is interesting, and I am glad you mentioned it in your article. Teaching African History is very important in the classroom, and your article proved that and helped me understand the importance. Thank you for sharing.