Join AACTE In Celebrating Black History Month
Join AACTE in celebrating Black History Month by sharing your favorite resources for teaching Black history at the Ed Prep or PK-12 level. AACTE will compile this shared knowledge as a toolkit for teaching Black history every month of the year. Please take a moment to share your resources.
This post is the first of AACTE’s weekly Black History Month 2022 Blog series to celebrate members’ essential efforts to increase the representation of Black History in America’s schools. As a kickoff to the celebration, AACTE is releasing, for a limited time to the public, a recording of AACTE’s 2021 Annual Meeting Deeper Dive session, The 1619 Project.
Founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, Lonnie Bunch, describes the museum as a place that “transcends the boundaries of race and culture that divide us and becomes a lens into a story that unites us all.” That is a powerful statement, and one AACTE and its members strive to emulate as it celebrates Black History, not just this month, but every day as AACTE advocates for curriculum and policies that are representative of the country’s diverse history.
Black History Month began as an effort to increase the representation in history classes of Black people’s contributions to America’s society, culture, and progress as a nation. Its origin lies in the thesis of Carter G. Woodson. According to an adaption of the National Museum of American History’s blog exhibit on Dr. Woodson, he was challenged by his dissertation advisors, who, according to Dr. Woodson, cautioned him time and again not to “undertake research that the Negro had a history.” Woodson knew that education is essential to social change — and AACTE honors that as part of its mission.
Woodson said, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.” AACTE’s dean in residence, Leslie Fenwick, who shares a history with Woodson as both were deans at Howard University, wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post about the museum. Fenwick (who is a member of the museum’s Scholarly Advisory Committee) illustrates this point through an experience she had as a 6th grade teacher. She describes the excitement she felt taking her students, a majority of whom were BIPOC, to a natural history museum for their first time, only to be met with exhibits that presented Blacks as primitive and Whites as evolved humans. Knowing she needed to address the emotional pain of the experience, she asked her students what the exhibit was teaching them. “One of my students (I still remember his name, Ruben) seethed, ‘Museums are racist.’ I nodded affirmatively, and we marched to lunch in uncharacteristic silence.”
Thankfully, there is finally a national antidote to that museum’s miseducation. The antidote is the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The exhibits at this museum, which is the world’s third busiest museum, are exceptional in racial myth-shattering, and provide opportunities to explore the breadth and depth of the African American experience. Housed in a massive building next to the capital, one would need weeks to absorb everything it has to offer. The founders and contributors to the Museum of African American History and Culture have invested, as did Carter G. Woodson, in education as a means of social progress. The museum’s curriculum offerings and virtual experiences reach learners across the world; resources AACTE will be highlighting throughout the month. Even in the midst of incredible representation in the museum of the unequivocal contributions of Black Americans in our nation’s history, the field of education must continue to fight for the representation of Black History in our school curriculum.
View the 1619 Project Deeper Dive Session from the 2021 Annual Meeting
As a kickoff to the celebration, AACTE is releasing, for a limited time to the public, a recording of AACTE’s 2021 Annual Meeting Deeper Dive session, The 1619 Project. In this session, Fenwick is joined by Mary Elliott, curator of The 1619 Project exhibit at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), and Christina Sneed, AP English language and composition teacher at University City High School in St. Louis, Missouri, who taught The 1619 Project to her classes and wrote the Pulitzer Center’s curriculum resources for The 1857 Project. To gain access to resources with leaders like this all year round, become a member and register for the AACTE 2022 Annual Meeting in New Orleans, where participants will continue these conversations with a shared mission to collaborate on equity initiatives.