Black History Month should serve as an exhilarating time to fill in the gaps left by textbooks and state curriculum standards. It should also inspire teachers to continue this education beyond February, teaching black and non-black students how they can affirm the existence and humanity of black lives year-round.
It’s OK to teach about the resilience of black people despite the structures in place to uphold a racial hierarchy; we already know, for example, that more work is needed to help students learn the history of American slavery and the civil rights movement accurately.
But it’s also critical that teachers show that people of African descent have contributed more than forced, free labor to U.S. history. Students deserve opportunities to examine black literature, art, innovations and customs that have helped shape the culture of the United States—and the world.
One of my favorite historic figures is Claudette Colvin. She is a true unsung hero. Learn more about Claudette Colvin.