Friday, February 22, 2013


There are seven days remaining in African American History Month.

During this month lots of good programs take place.  Special speakers are invited to be part of programs at churches (including my own), schools, and community centers.

Children are learning about their own heritage or the heritage of the child sitting in the desk next to them. Television and radio stations run Black History Moments, announcing interesting facts and dates. Art galleries run special exhibits. University cafeterias serve soul food dinners.  

Also during this month the media excavates every black film ever made, good bad or indifferent.

There are pros and cons to designating any amount of time to specially and specifically honor or celebrate anything. We can make the same pro and con arguments, for Valentine’s Day, for Mother’s Day, for Father’s Day and so on.  

It is not enough to limit our awareness, acknowledgement, exposure, interest, or teaching and learning to just one day, one week, one month.  

We should be integrating everybody’s  role in history everyday.  Just as we should be honoring our mothers or fathers or beloveds everyday.

In a class for Teacher Leadership in Digital Writing that I am taking with Troy Hicks and several teachers from the Columbus Area Writing Project, we had a similar discussion about  the recent Digital Learning Day. Again, digital learning should go on everyday.

AfricanAmerican History Month grew out of Negro History Week, initiated by Carter G. Woodson and first celebrated in 1925, the first week of February. African American experiences, roles and contributions were totally ignored in most classrooms at that time. In 1976, as we celebrated our country's bicentennial, this week became a month-long celebration.

While we can argue the benefits or limits to this month—it remains an opportunity and reminder to focus on people and events, still not always included in today’s classrooms.

One way to begin conversations that incorporate an African American focus or perspective in the classroom and community dialogues is through literature.  

There are many wonderful literature books, picture books, and history books and other information books about and by African American writers.

The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) each year sponsors The African American Read-In across the nation, giving us an opportunity and reminder  to explore this body of literature.  

NCTE provides several excellent reading lists suggesting texts that may be read in schools, churches, libraries, community centers, book clubs and so forth, for all levels. Click here to learn more about this event.

Over this past year, I have discovered several wonderful books that are perfect for sharing this month—and all year long.

I TOO, AM AMERICA by Langston Hughes and Brian Collier

Brian Collier has beautifully illustrated Hughes's classic poem in his signature collage style.

Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by  Andrea Pinkney Brian Pinkney

This beautifully crafted and illustrated book journeys through centuries, linking ten Black men and their personal and comprehensive stories, showing us the depth and breadth of Black manhood in America, from Benjamin Banneker to Barack Obama.

The 100 Best African American Poems collected and edited by Nikki Giovanni
Giovanni admits the difficulty of her task and indicates right on the cover  that she has "cheated", choosing more than the title's 100 poems, including both classic and contemporary favorites, both familiar and, perhaps new-to-you selections, to create a treasury of Black poetry.

Heart  and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson
Nelson has created a valuable and beautiful resource.  Beginning with the Declaration of Independence, the history of America and African Americans is told uniquely, in the voice of "Everywoman", whose ancestors came to this country in slave ships, but lives to cast her vote for our first African American president.

Today's Deeper Writing Possibility

We celebrate African American History Month each  February.

What are some ways that do you think this month is best celebrated? 

List the advantages and disadvantages of having African American History Month.

What are the implications of not having this celebration? Who would be impacted and how?
What are the benefits of continuing this celebration?  Who would benefit and how?

Write a persuasive piece explaining your position on whether we should continue to have this special celebration.

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