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A letter to parents and educators about Black History Month

Dear Educators and Parents,

Black history is American History. February is known for it’s bad weather, Valentine’s Day and growing interest in college hoops. More importantly, February is Black History Month, and it’s important for our country to take some time to reflect on the importance African Americans have played in American history and what our country and the world can learn from this experience. 

One of the darkest aspects of our collective history is the institutional racism and discrimination that African Americans have experienced during most of our country’s existence.  When we use the word collective, we are acknowledging that this is important to all of us as a group. It is important for our students of color to know the history of their people. It is important and relevant for our white students to know that people of color have made valuable contributions to our history and culture. As a high school student, we often can recall learning about the Dust Bowl and the Gold Rush, but nothing about the Great Migration. The Great Migration included the relocation of more than 6 million African Americans, which is more than the Dust Bowl and the Gold Rush migrations combined, affecting the history and culture of our country.

The National theme for Black History Month this year is Black Migration. We would like to encourage you to take time personally to learn about this time era. During this time, as previously stated, 6 million African Americans migrated from the rural south to the industrial north. In an attempt to escape Jim Crow laws, many African American families relocated to the Northeast, hoping for better jobs and better schooling opportunities for themselves and their children. This moment in history brought about great change in poetry, politics, and the arts, and changed the demographics of America.

We would like to encourage every single school, no matter the demographics, to make changes to their curriculum, their media, and books so that all children are being educated that people of color have had important and encompassing impact to American history and life. Implicit bias starts early in young children and erasure of black history devalues the contributions that young children in our communities are capable of.  Our main goal is to increase awareness of the contributions that African Americans have made throughout American history. We hope that this includes instruction and learning about the Great Migration along with the Dust Bowl Era, that students are also learning about the women behind the success of the space race along with the first astronauts in space. Other important contributions we hope that students learn about are the heroic actions of Robert Smalls along with other African American civil war heroes. Again, teaching about and celebrating the history of Black people in America isn’t just for Black students, it is for all students.

These are some actions we would like to see implemented during Black History Month, in hopes of a more inclusive curriculum in the future.

  • Books with children and adults of color represented in libraries.
  • Curriculum included in this letter being taught to all students.
  • Bulletin Board displayed in a commons area celebrating important African American Contributions.
  • Teachers and principals are encouraged to read a book about the Great Migration Era to benefit their own knowledge and expose them to other cultures and bring down some of the barriers and bias’s they may have that they don’t realize. The Warmth Of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson, or The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, by Ayana Mathis are two examples.

We appreciate your efforts and consideration in teaching about this important part of Americana. This is a benefit to all the children in our communities. Resources can be found at asalh.org (the website for National Black History Month)

Thank you,

Children’s Equity League

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