By Shelby Kretz
What do you remember about your Black history education?
Did you learn about Black joy? Black success? Can you remember and name any prominent Black scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs, or artists?
Black history is so much more than slavery and civil rights. Notable Black leaders and changemakers expand far beyond Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman. So why do most of our schools only teach these parts of Black history?
When talking to children, we have to remember and reinforce that Black history and present-day Black experience is not all suffering. Black history includes inventions, science, art, politics, healthcare, mathematics, and every other field and experience you can imagine. It is your job to bring Black joy into your conversations!
For too long, educators have painted a picture of constant suffering when teaching about Black History. This cannot continue. It not only creates negative stereotypes and promotes fear, but it also leaves out a vital part of the richness of Black history.
Start by introducing kids to Black successes and relatable Black characters, without a focus on their race. It’s important to do this before introducing the struggles of Black history, especially for your youngest learners, as you want to avoid having their first perception of race and Blackness be negative.
Young people develop racial awareness and stereotypes very early on, so introducing them to Black characters and protagonists along with all other characters of all races helps to build a baseline of understanding and appreciation for various races. They see that characters they love come from all different races. This can help to combat the development of stereotypes. This way, when more serious discussions about race are held, children are more likely to connect themselves to the figures involved and their struggles. They will also more clearly and emotionally understand why racism is so harmful and wrong.
So, yes, at some point, we must introduce the history of violence, racism, and slavery in our conversations about Black History, but make sure that is not the only (or even the main) aspect of your Black History work this year.
This year, let’s celebrate Blackness and Black people for their joy, successes, and rich culture and history.
Let’s rethink how we teach Black History.
For more ideas on how to do that, check back on our blog and follow us on social media. We’ll be sharing new tips and ideas all month.
Comment below how you’ve been changing the narrative about Black History with your little ones this year!
For more ways to bring social justice to the little ones in your life, sign up for the LJL newsletter here.