Slavery, a major part of U.S. history, lasted over 245 years. Black people, who helped settle our nation, were stripped of their human rights. After the abolition of slavery in 1865, it took years and years to redress this unjust legacy.
Having graduated from high school relatively recently, I wonder if I have really learned as much as possible about black history. Februaries went by in a blur of poster projects, facts about slavery and role-playing. The month seemed to go as quickly as it came. The fact that February is the shortest month of the year does not help, either. I find myself in my third year of college feeling starved of insights regarding black history.
The same people are highlighted every year. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X are among five or so prominent African Americans who my peers and I are taught to view as influential in our history. Every year, we go over the protest behind Parks’ refusal to sit at the back of the bus or King’s renowned “I Have a Dream” speech.
It seems as though schools see the month of February as the only reason to teach black history. But when the month comes around, it is not even done thoroughly. From one grade to the next, history is literally repeated every February. Still, there have to be more than five people — and more crucial events —my teachers have never taught me about. There must be much more to experience than African-inspired dance groups visiting the school’s auditorium.
Setting aside a few hours a week in February is not enough to educate us. As students, we should retain all the information from our lessons by reviewing them gradually. But if we binge on black history for just one month out of the year, and then go back to less inclusive lessons, are we really learning as much as we can? Having knowledgeable educators teach black history in moderate doses, within the school’s regular curriculum, seems like a more sensible approach.