How Black Lives Matter Is Changing What Students Learn During Black History Month

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tags: teaching, education, African American history, Black History Month, Black History, Black lives matter


In 2020, for the second year in a row, teachers — including in the country’s three largest school districts, in New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago — will wear “Black Lives Matter” shirts to school as they teach lessons on black history and race issues from Feb. 3 to Feb. 7. The organizers are also calling for Black History and Ethnic Studies to be a graduation requirement in K-12 schools.

Theirs is not a new call to action. They are driven by the same feeling James Baldwin described in 1963: “I began to be bugged by the teaching of American history, because it seemed that history had been taught without cognizance of my presence.” It is also the same feeling that in 1926 drove Carter G. Woodson, who is known as “the Father of Black History,” to urge educators to set aside a week in February “for the purpose of emphasizing what has already been learned about the Negro during the year”; what he started became Black History Month in 1976.

And yet, from that old feeling, they are helping Black History Month — and the year-round teaching of the topic — evolve to a new stage.

“I definitely think that Black Lives Matter encouraged people to learn about other movements that came before,” says Tatiana Amaya, 19, a freshman at Claremont McKenna College who took a required black history course in her Philadelphia high school. “It’s central to understanding that black oppression still exists today.”

The Origins of Black History Month

Carter G. Woodson knew about history. After all, in 1912 he became the second African American to earn a PhD in history from Harvard, after only W.E.B. DuBois. So he could see that history was being distorted — especially, in 1915, by The Birth of a Nation. The enormously successful movie painted a white supremacist vision of the American past, and inspired a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.

Read entire article at Time

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