Jim Brown teaches AP European History and World History at Brazoswood High School. He is also a reader for the AP European History exam. I am currently recruiting Jim to join the history department at HCHS.
It’s February again and that means its Black History month. The one month a year that suddenly everyone seems aware of what’s going on (or what’s not going on) in their history class. Black history month has been around for quite a while. Americans have recognized black history annually since 1926, first as “Negro History Week” and later as “Black History Month.” What you might not know is that black history had barely begun to be studied-or even documented-when the tradition originated. Although blacks have been in America at least as far back as colonial times, it was not until the 20th century that they gained a respectable presence in the history books. – Elissa Haney
I’ve been teaching for 12 years now and every year at this time the question comes up, “What are we going to do about Black History Month?” Both colleges pose the question and students concerned that we need to recognized the accomplishments of African Americans and remember the history of Blacks in this country. Many students ask, “Why is it only one month?” My response – It doesn’t have to be. If we study Black history outside of the month of February its just as valid. I guess we’re just not “celebrating” black history.
Sometimes studying Black History can be very upsetting to both Black and White students, especially the younger ones. Images of the slave trade and Civil Rights movements can be upsetting. Movies and documentaries are meant to provoke a strong emotional reaction. I’ve had several Black students tell me that it makes them sad to see beatings and attack dogs and fire hoses. To tell you the truth, it makes me sad too. It gives me no joy to see White people abusing their power like that. My first year of teaching I was even accused of enjoying the idea of Blacks being abused and that’s why I was showing movies about it. Thirteen-year-olds can be so cruel.
The fact is, as a White person, Black history is my history too. I have grown up in a post-segregation world. I have never experienced Jim Crow or separate-but-equal, but I know that it existed and I know why it all had to end. I have been shaped by the achievements of African Americans and the Black experience in America as much as anyone in this country.
As a history teacher, I know that it is difficult to cover everything that people would like to study. In survey courses that we teach in High School it seems as if you always get too much of what you don’t like and not enough of what you enjoy. If you would like to learn more about Black History, pick up a book or just spend some time surfing the net. There are lots of great websites highlighting the accomplishments of African Americans.
Are race relations as good as they could be in America? No. The problem of the “color line”, as W.E.B. Du Bois put it, still exist. Would I like for it to improve? Yes, and I think by studying Black History we would go a long way to improving race relations