Black history is more than Juneteenth, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks – Daily Breeze

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The first time Olani LaBeaud learned in detail about Juneteenth – a day in history that marks the end of slavery in America – was towards the end of high school, in an AP history class.

She was in her freshman year of college at Cal State Long Beach when she heard of the Tulsa Massacre – a race riot in 1921 when crowds of white residents, some delegates and armed by city officials, attacked local residents. black residents and destroyed homes, killing more than 800 people and injuring many more.

LaBeaud, a 2017 graduate of Summit High School in Fontana, heard about Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in class and during Black History Month, observed in February. But as a young African American girl, she had to rely on her own curiosity and research skills to uncover such illustrious figures as Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist and women’s rights activist who was born into slavery, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to get her son back in 1828, Truth became the first black woman to win such a lawsuit against a white man.

“Why haven’t I heard from her at school?” LaBeaud asks. “What about Ida B. Wells, Toni Morrison and so many others?” Why did I have to learn so much on my own? “

Depth, lack of context

LeBeaud is not the only one to ask such questions. One year after a national record of racism following the murder of George floyd in Minneapolis and a pandemic that has disproportionately killed African Americans, black students, teachers, and activists in Southern California and across the United States demand better black history curricula in schools. They speak of an urgent need to give black history the context, depth and meaning it deserves.

President Joe Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday on Thursday, commemorating June 19, 1865, the day Major-General Gordon Granger, who had fought for the Union, led a force in Galveston , Texas, to convey the message that the war was over, the Union had won and now had the manpower to enforce an end to slavery. This happened two months after the Civil War ended and after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

African Americans have traditionally commemorated Juneteenth with Proclamation readings, barbecues, food festivals and other activities celebrating African American history and culture.

While many in the community are happy to see Juneteenth officially recognized by the US government, some fear the history lessons will say little about the conflict and struggle black people have endured after that day and the inequalities. systems that took shape in the following century.

A report entitled “Inland Empire Black Education Agenda” published by the BLU Education Foundation in San Bernardino in February, found that black history was among the top three priorities for black students and their parents, a finding that surprised even the study’s authors at the time. The group interviewed 1,100 black parents, students and community members of the Inland Empire.

A 2015 study by the National Museum of African American History and Culture found that American history classes devote one or two lessons to black history. In a 2014 study, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that 12 states did not require any education on the civil rights movement. Less than half covered the Jim Crow laws.

The center awarded California a B for its history standards, which were adopted in 1998 and recently updated in 2016.

Schools in California present the story of Martin Luther King Jr. in kindergarten as part of the national holiday learning that bears his name. In grades two and three, students learn about Harriet Tubman, who started a network of anti-slavery activists and shelters known as the Underground Railroad to save and free slaves. The standards call for a deeper dive into slavery around the fifth grade.

In eighth grade, teachers are encouraged to discuss slave resistance and the role slavery played in American politics. In grade 11, students analyze the evolution of federal and civil voting rights legislation and landmark cases such as Brown v. Board of Education which led to the desegregation of schools.

Teach hard truths

Despite these standards in California, actual teaching practices are insufficient, said Akilah Lyons-Moore, assistant professor at USC Rossier School of Education. Students learn about Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, she said, and they learn more about slavery, but the racial aspect of slavery is not explicitly teaches.

“We are moving from indentured servitude to slavery to the slave trade,” Lyons-Moore said. “But the students don’t learn how color became a way of distinguishing who was a slave and who was free. They learn that the slaves have been freed. But they have no idea that the rebuilding period – which happened after June 17 – was the deadliest for black people. “

While slavery “may seem like a long time ago” to some, she said, blacks are not.

“My grandmother was born into a family of sharecroppers,” said Lyons-Moore. “It’s barely two generations. And the repercussions are still being felt. You don’t get that from the history that is taught in our classrooms.

Black history should be presented in detail at the elementary school level, said Reverend James Baylark, pastor of First Community Baptist Church in Desert Hot Springs. He says he’s working with the Inland Empire and Los Angeles County school districts to make this happen.

“I won’t say California is better than other states when it comes to teaching black history,” he said. “It seems to me that teaching is limited to Black History Month. You have to talk about it every day. “

Catch them young

Even high school kids have no idea who Garrett Morgan was, notes Baylark, who is African American. Morgan was an African-American inventor whose notable inventions were traffic lights and the gas mask.

“It seems to me that important facts about black history are brought in too late,” the pastor said. “At that point, (the students) lost interest. We have to catch them young. And that’s important for all kids, not just African American kids.

Elementary school teacher Billy Bush at his home in Yorba Linda, Calif. On Friday, June 18, 2021. Bush believes students are not learning enough about slavery and what happened to black people after slavery . (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register / SCNG)

But when African American children, in particular, don’t learn about their history and culture, it leaves a lasting impression on their psyche, said Billy Bush, who teaches history and math at Dr Mildred Elementary School. Dalton Henry in San Bernardino.

“Children’s self-esteem comes from knowing who they are and where they come from,” he said. “When it comes to education, they don’t seem to aim for depth. They try to cover the bare minimum and move on. African American history needs to be taught in depth. This is especially important for black boys who see themselves on television as either ball players or drug dealers. It’s sad because we don’t give them a trip or a story.

Real story, real change

Teaching black history in schools is also a great way to improve race relations, said Bush, whose mother is African American and father is white.

“The only way to overcome racism is when people understand what has been done to the oppressed,” he said. “If you teach everyone the real story, you will see real change. “

The recent push to teach anti-racism and ethnic studies in public schools is all about highlighting the experiences of those whose voices have yet to be heard, Lyons-Moore said.

“In a history class, anti-racism would involve looking at multiple perspectives and understanding how different people view the same events,” she said. “There are a lot of things we don’t discuss at school. We don’t teach about lynchings or how the US Postal Service made postcards from images of lynchings. It is a part of our history that we cannot deny.

Teaching black history or anti-racism is not about making whites look bad or portraying blacks as victims, Lyons-Moore said.

“It’s really an opportunity to understand each other in a way we’ve never experienced before,” she said. “How do we understand it? How do we see it in our laws, policies and standards? How to propose solutions? And above all, how to prevent history from repeating itself? “

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