3 Ways to Keep Learning About Black History
Black History Month celebrates the heritage, achievements, and contributions of black Americans, both past and present. But why and how should we keep learning about black history, regardless of our own heritage, once February is over?
The Importance of History
Societies that successfully deal with challenges and crises (such as the current pandemic) have taken time to learn valuable lessons from the past.
Our current education system tends to prioritize STEM and other subjects that are part of standardized testing or career preparation. Although these subjects are important, the stories of our past and present can help shed light on who we were made to be, and how to relate to one another with genuine love and kindness, in ways that math and language study cannot.
One starting point: embracing the idea that black history is woven into the fabric of U.S. and world history. We cannot have one without the others.
History is, in part, telling the stories of people groups and cultures that have impacted all of us. These stories anchor us, and give wisdom about where we have come from, where we are going, what we value, and even what we must not allow to happen again.
Rather than viewing black history as a separate unit or focus of study for one month of the year, it can be rightly recognized as part of our shared history year-round.
Below are three very different resources, developed by educators and innovators, that can help breathe new life into an ongoing celebration of black history.
New Black Hero YouTube Video Series
Jhames Holley, Jr., a pastor, former educator, and consultant, has set out to spotlight “living history makers” through an innovative YouTube video series called New Black Hero.
The short videos feature modern role models and potential mentors for black youth. These influencers work across a wide range of fields and areas of interest.
Part of Holley’s goal is to introduce people whose impact on society will not only inspire a younger generation but also be relevant to their lives, here and now.
For example, one video features Sheena Allen, notable speaker and founder/CEO of CapWay mobile bank. Seeing a need to increase financial literacy in young households, Holley chose to highlight the career and contributions of a successful black woman in the banking and mobile app industries—one who understands the monetary habits and banking needs of millennials.
The short videos run about 3-4 minutes long and are easy to incorporate into learning, both inside and outside of the classroom. Holley plans to release a new one every month, all year round. In the process, he has found a way to shine a light on heroes who can inspire us all to make a difference.
Black Quotidian Digital Archive
Matthew Delmont, a Darmouth College professor, has established a unique digital archive to share more about the lives of ordinary citizens and everyday heroes. His website, Black Quotidian, profiles hundreds of individuals by pulling information from black newspapers, audio recordings, and videos dating back to the 1900s.
The site offers a rich glimpse into some fascinating but less well-known people and events from U.S. history. Some familiar names from the civil rights era are mentioned. For example, it includes press coverage of Claudette Colvin, a 15-year old girl who (nine months before Rosa Parks) refused to give up her bus seat. But many others are of individuals whose contributions are in different areas, such as politics, sports, the arts, the military, and more.
The archives are searchable by names, dates, or themes. Delmont recognizes that readers will have different goals in visiting the site, whether as a “skimmer,” a “swimmer,” or a “diver.” Regardless, this collection of profiles serves as a valuable reminder of the ways that communities have been, and still are, shaped by the people who live in them.
Heritage Mom Blog/Booklists
Amber O’Neal Johnston is a homeschooling mom of four children and the founder of Heritage Mom, a blog and creative space that fuses many of her passions: faith, family and parenting, education, books, and travel.
Her blog began as a way to “document and discuss the joys and trials of raising [her] kids to love themselves and others” while recognizing that “…for black children, it requires a particular level of steadfast dedication to fiercely educating, protecting, and preparing them for what lies ahead.”
Since the blog’s launch, O’Neal Johnston has developed excellent resources for families such as Soulful Hymns for a Culturally-Rich Hymn Study (including lyrics and links to traditional, contemporary, bluegrass, and soulful versions of three different hymns). She also shares thoughtful and wide-ranging book recommendations of all kinds, like her Hallelujah! Booklist: Bible Stories With Images of Black People.
Heritage Mom seeks to encourage and equip each of us to be intentional in learning both for ourselves and for the children in our lives, regardless of our own cultural heritage.
The above three resources are just a few of the many ways we can learn about black history as part of our shared history, all year round.
Real-life conversations with other people are another way to learn about and celebrate our different heritages. Unity Table offers a simple way to begin the conversation. Click here to find out more.