Black History Month May Be Over but the Teaching of Black History Must Continue

By David McGuire

Black History month has now wrapped up and in many schools, it will be put back on the shelf until next year. That is a mistake. Black History can't be confined to just 28 days in winter. I am not referring to the month of Black History, because that is not the problem. The month is there for the celebration. However, that does not mean when that the month is over we should stop the teaching of Black history, especially in our schools. It's too important.

Black history needs to be taught to all students, not just black students. Students should continue to learn all year about the contributions that black people have made throughout history. When students are taught not to have a deep appreciation for the contributions of African Americans, it can can lead to disdain and distrust for the African Americans of today.

Why Should Black History Be Taught All Year?

There are more negative stories about black people on TV and in the news than positive. There are far too many places in this country where children can go their entire educational careers without ever having an interaction with a black person. There are still many neighborhoods and schools that are segregated. The result of these segregated schools is that many students grow and have no personal experience to offset the negative message that they hear about or see from blacks. The negative images often times give many children growing up a negative perspective, which in turns shapes their belief and treatment of blacks.

Schools have an obligation, no matter where they are, to teach children about all history, including Black history. Students need to learn the truth so that they may have a more accurate perspective on the contributions of blacks to American society.  It is nothing special to go into a predominately black school on the south-side of Chicago and see the children learning about the contributions of Thomas Jefferson, so why can’t the predominately white school in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina teach about the contributions of Medgar Evers to the Civil Rights movement?

Racism is still alive in America 2017

It is almost impossible to live in America without witnessing some form of racism. We can’t help but see news stories of unarmed black men killed by police. We see on social media how white college students still wear black face paint to portray black people. We even saw a group of white high school girls find humor in arranging their shirts to spell out the “N word.” It is award season and when we watch the Grammy’s, the categories that are dominated by black artists are not even part of the live television broadcast -- we just see the R & B winners scroll by at the bottom of the screen. The 2016 Oscar nominations saw the shutting out of many black actors and actresses. If this past Sunday’s Oscar broadcast was a sign of things to come, that will be a good thing as we saw Moonlight win for best picture as well as big acting awards go to Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali.

Teaching black history in schools leads to black history being talked about at home.

When a child spends the school day learning of the contributions of blacks in schools that child goes home with a wealth of new knowledge to share at home. When white students sit in social studies class in their elementary school watching videos and reading stories of blacks who have invented common household items and broken barriers in medicine and politics, they go home to their dinner tables and share those findings with their parents; often these parents never had that experience while they were in school and the information being shared by their children is new to them. If school can be a catalyst for conversations about race in America's homes, that is a good thing. 

Learning about black history is good for all students. Teaching black history benefits students when it is taught all year long, not just in February. Let’s use Black History Month as the celebration, but let’s use the other 11 months for the teaching that will help us be more knowledgeable and better understand what it is that we are celebrating every February.

David McGuire is an African American middle school principal in Indianapolis.