We Need Black History Taught in D.C. Schools!
Hats off to The Washington Informer newspaper for your weekly Black history lesson – the "Black Facts" column. Thank you also for the editorial on "Django Unchained" and why Jamie Foxx deserves high honors for his role in the film. Indeed, he should be nominated for an Oscar for his role as a man determined to free his wife from the horrors of slavery. In actuality, his story was not just a one-time, dramatic episode. It was a recurring pattern of courage and victory of runaway slaves, resistance and rebellion of Black men and women over the horrors of that "peculiar institution."
The Informer goes on the say that "the American slavery story needs to be told, over and over again, so that every American is familiar with its horrific details." True again. But may I suggest a few further steps.
Readers should be aware that Black history and culture are not taught in D.C. public schools. Understandably, the D.C. school system is concentrating on the basics of reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic (the three R's) to bring our students up to proficiency in these skills. But what about educating our students' self-worth and pride on who they really are as individuals and a people. What about educating them on the courageous history of Black people over the institution that tried to deny their soul and their self-worth? I celebrate Black History Month too, but Black history (and culture) is much more extensive and uplifting than devoting a few hours a year in February to listening to Dr. King's speeches.
For over 346 years, Black people won victories over slavery (1619-1865) and Jim Crow (1866-1965), yet very few of our students have ever learned about the courage, strength, creativity and tenacity it took to go from slavery to freedom and from Django to Barack Obama. This knowledge of one's history builds self-worth and self-esteem.
D.C.'s own Carter G. Woodson taught us long ago that not to know one's history and roots is to lose one's soul. Our children are struggling with the three R's today partly because they do not know their own soul, their own glorious history and their innate strengths and historic accomplishments.
Each of our youth has a keen mind. But do they also know their historic brilliance? Slavery and Jim Crow should not be a shameful history. It should be taught from the opposite perspective: How Black people overcame a system that tried to deny their personhood and how they went from a system that tried to deny their history and culture to a history and culture today that is admired worldwide, except in our D.C. public schools.
Dr. Bernard Demczuk is a scholar of African American history and culture who teaches at The School Without Walls in Northwest. He is also chair of The Spirit of Black DC, an online website devoted to preserving and celebrating the extensive Black history and culture of Washington, D.C. For more information, visit the website at www.thespiritofblackdc.com.
Extend Library Hours!
One of the best teachers my daughters ever had in elementary school some years ago required her 5th grade students to find answers to a monthly list of questions. To do most of this, the students had to go to the library. By successfully completing these assignments, the students became more and more familiar with how to navigate the reference resources and how to work the various search engines as they found the answers. These activities at the library helped students develop life-long skills, which followed them to university and professional research projects.
Therefore, I praise the D.C. City Council for its consideration of extended library hours and days, "Bill to Expand D.C. Library Hours Garners Support" by James Wright, which appeared in the January 17, 2013 edition. This consideration is long overdue in the nation's capital, where literacy and intellect are so revered.
Truthfully, investment in public schools should always be tied to commensurate consideration of our city's libraries. If not, the library system will probably just fade away.
Lauren K. Godfrey