Tuesday, February 3, 2015


License: CC0 Public Domain 

It is February,  the shortest month,  only 28 days.

It is the month in which we remember and celebrate events and people in African American history.
It is the month in which we steep ourselves in black culture and traditions.
This February we may be intentionally seeking unique ways to learn and grow as individuals,  to increase our knowledge as a people, and to reconcile glaring  misconceptions or  omissions in our history.

There will be programs and public celebrations. There will be read-ins and teach-ins and special art exhibits and cultural expositions.

(There will also be the advertised sales and specials in stores, although I am not sure how buying that refrigerator,  pair of shoes, or  car will advance my knowledge of  African American people, history, or culture.)

It is February.

In classrooms around the country, teachers are putting up bulletin boards, selecting books to share with their students, and designing hands-on experiences to highlight the contributions of African Americans.

Sadly, many children will be reading and talking about the same few familiar folks they learned about last year.. and the year before that and the one before that.

You know the ones--- Martin Luther King  and his dream, George Washington Carver and his peanuts,  Rosa Parks and her bus. Harriet Tubman and her train....  You know the ones.

I am not taking anything away from these important people in our history.  They each made monumental offerings and sacrifices that touch us today in critical ways.  But they are not the only ones....

So it was with a huge smile and a nod of satisfaction that I read 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World. Charles R.  Smith Jr. and Shane W. Evans have created a  book that offers us a fresh perspective and breathes new life into our black history lessons.  In his author's note  Smith explains:

 I 've always had a love-hate relationship with Black History Month.
 I love that black culture is shared and studied for a whole month, but as a student of color I hated the idea of ignoring it the other eleven months.  On top of that, I kept learning the same things about the same people and after a while, no matter how proud I was of my culture, I got bored and just stopped listening.
As an author I wanted to change that...
I wanted to show the variety of accomplishments black people have achieved, not just in the long ago past, but in recent times and present day, as well. Ultimately I wanted to provide a wealth of information for teachers and students alike all in one book..

Rich illustrations and layers of text, including varied types of verse, eulogies, quotes from historic documents, excerpts from speeches, and bibliographic information, highlight events and people that have impacted our nation, history and the world.

Each day of the 28 is blessed with a specific moment in our history-- beginning in 1776 when our country became an idea to die for, and with the first person to die for that idea, Crispus Attacks, and ending in the White House with Barack Obama.

 In between, we see some familiar faces, but are also treated to moments that we may not have known,  and faces that that we may not have seen before.

Both author and illustrator are Coretta Scott King Award Winners and bring to this new work the excellence we  have come to associate with that award.

See this previous and related post for additional resources
I, Too, Am America

Today's Deeper Writing Possibilities

This month reflect on the contributions of African Americans to our history as a nation.

Who are the people that you remember this month --locally, nationally, and globally?
Write a poem to honor a person who had made a monumental offering to our world.

How do you feel about African American History Month?  
Write an essay exploring the positives and negatives of this annual celebration.