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I am a black woman.
I majored in African American Studies in college.
I wrote my dissertation on the integration of Africa-related topics in Georgia’s world history textbooks and curriculum.
I used to look forward to Black History Month when I was younger because that was the only time I saw “me” in the school curriculum. Luckily for me, my parents and grandparents gave me lots of books about black history so I knew more than most other black kids I knew.
I became a teacher because I had issues with the way black history is ignored in schools. I wanted to teach my students all the things I never learned in school. When I began my teaching career, Black History Month was MY THING. Although I addressed topics related to black history into my teaching because I know a lot, during the month of February I went above and beyond. I helped plan Black History Month programs, contributed questions for the school-wide daily trivia, played Black History games in my class. I was all about Black History Month.
That is no longer the case. I appreciate Carter G. Woodson’s acknowledgment of the need to recognize the contributions of black people to the history of America. It was great that Negro History Week expanded to Black History Month. My problem is, almost one hundred years later, the recognition has stopped there. When W. E. B. DuBois and Carter G. Woodson and others wrote about the need to acknowledge Black History, I am reasonably confident they didn’t think it should ONLY be acknowledged during the month of February. Schools, television shows, and movies pull out all the stops to recognize Black History during February and do nothing for the rest of the year.
I refuse to drop everything just because it’s February. I do my best to weave black history throughout my US history curriculum, while staying true to the curriculum I have to cover. I don’t want my kids to believe it takes a special occasion to discuss black people in school.
I do teach my students about the origins of Black History Month. It is extremely disappointing that most still rely on the tokenism that Black History Month usually generates. It is deplorable that most schools still rely on a historical narrative that excludes the voices/experiences of those who were not white, male and rich.
While I don’t have a problem with those that choose to celebrate Black History Month, I know enough black history to not have to wait until February to share it with my students. Hopefully one day more teachers will be able to say the same.