I’ve always approached Black History Month in school with a bit of trepidation because every year it fails me! As a mom of three Black boys, I realized early on that they were getting the wrong message from the mainstream school curriculum. I’ve been known to keep my kids home from school when I find out which day they’re teaching Black history at public school.

In my opinion, Black history is taught from a very white perspective. After being reduced to only a day or two of curriculum, it feels like the message of an entire rich and complex cultural history is condensed to begin at slavery and end at MLK day – and typically stars Abraham Lincoln (a white guy who owned slaves). But what about the full human experience that Black people had BEFORE all of that?

RELATED READING :: Beyond MLK: Live the Dream

I’m ok with my children knowing about the tragedy of slavery. And of course I want my boys to learn about the brave men and women who fought for civil rights. I can appreciate that February was designated Black History Month to amplify the issues that Black people faced. But, I don’t want my boys leaving school feeling less than after hearing one very narrow point of view. I think studying their ancestry should empower and uplift black students, and allow them to feel more connected to roots that were sown in one of the largest and oldest continents on earth.

I wish mainstream education could focus on all the cool stuff about African history – wealthy kingdoms, exquisite art, musical traditions, monumental contributions to science, literature, and mathematics…just to name a few. I wish educators could expand on thousands of years of a rich African culture that was brutally interrupted by displacement and oppression instead of introducing Black history for the first time through slavery. I wish celebrating Black history in school happened more than just one month out of the year.

  • Have you ever asked your student what she knows about Black history before slavery?
  • Have you ever thought about how the public school narrative feels for Black students?
  • Is Black history pre-colonization an area where you could expand your knowledge?


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