Black History Month, February 2022

K-2 report, by Elaine Bonadies

Two of the K-2 class reading groups did a rather in-depth study on Black History in America throughout February.
We started out using the earliest chapters of This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell (the kid/YA version) to think about identity and how leaders do or don’t reflect us. We then used that to speculate on whom leaders are thinking of as they lead, make laws, and create policies for all of us.

That opening conversation led us into each student reading a picture book about a leader in Black History; Harriet Tubman, Jesse Owens, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, and more. We talked about what each one of them was up against in their time as they were up against leaders who didn’t look like them, nor come from a background anything like theirs.

As we got into deeper discussions of these abolitionist and civil rights leaders we really worked to place these events in time. We talked about proximity of these people in history to our own history. Leaders that would have been alive at the same time as parents or grandparents, events in relation to other events like the moon landing, the Titanic sinking, and other dates more fixed in our minds.

One book that we spent a lot of time reading and discussing was If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America by Anne Kamma. This book gave our students a LOT to think about as they learned about what daily life was like for slaves in the 1860s.

We also watched a documentary on Ruby Bridges, and we watched the entirety of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington in 1963.

We wrapped up these discussions and readings about the 1860s and 1960s with talking about today. Thinking about, how are things better?… has equality been reached? What is still happening in our country today?

We finished up the month by putting together a compilation of writing and art. The students could report on an event or person, write about their thoughts and feelings, create art, or express themselves in other ways around the topic of Black History in America. These creations will be gathered and printed up in one compilation for them to take home and distribute to others.

High School report, by Sallyann Murphey

The high school actually went a little early – to follow on from MLK Day. We each taught special week-long units celebrating Black history and culture. Mine was called “America’s Hidden Heroes” and was divided into three eras: the 18th Century; the 19th Century; and the 20th Century up to 1970.

For the 18th Century, we discussed:

  • Juan Garrido (member of the Ponce De Leon expedition)Jean Baptiste Point DuSable (founder of Chicago)
  • Phylis Wheatley (published poet)
  • Hercules Posey (George Washington’s chef/first celebrity chef in the US)
  • James Hemings (Thomas Jefferson’s brilliant chef, who introduced macaroni & cheese, french fries, and ice cream to the US.)

For the 19th Century, we discussed:

  • Nat Turner (the Nat Turner rebellion)
  • The Black Codes
  • George Washington Carver – scientist/agriculturalist
  • Dredd Scott (the Dredd Scott decision)
  • Fugitive Slave Acts
  • Harriet Tubman
  • Frederick Douglas
  • Sojourner Truth
  • Jim Crow laws

For the 20th Century, we discussed:

  • Madame C Walker
  • Jesse Owens (and the 1936 Berlin Olympics)
  • Sidney Poitier (smashing Hollywood’s black stereotype)
  • Marsha P Washington (Stonewall Riots)

And up to today:
My colleague, Erica Bruce, picked up the timeline from there, teaching a History of Hip-Hop. Wes Sturdevant, our Media Arts teacher, taught a unit about Black Filmmakers; while Jamie Schmiechen (Language Arts) taught a current events class about Black Lives Matter.

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