Hopes for the New Year

My sincere hope and prayer for the school year is that our nation’s history teachers teach African enslavement in the United States without fear or favor. As they put on their outfits each morning in preparation for what the day may bring, I hope they also put on courage in preparation for bright and curious minds that starve for truth. May they satisfy their students hunger by speaking prophetically about the path we’ll tread if we fail to learn from our inhumane past.

It is my hope that they teach the atrocities of the African enslavement and what it will take for true reconciliation so that, in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, we can learn to live together as brothers and sisters, and not perish together as fools.

Unfortunately, African enslavement is not an easy topic for some to teach. School struggle to teach it, let alone teach it well and the whitewashing of African enslavement by textbook companies make it no less difficult. However, it is a history that I have heard and learned about my entire life. It is a history that I have already shared with my young children aged 7, 4 and 3. You can question why I am introducing African enslavement to children that young. However when your emerging reader reads the name of a confederate soldier as you drive past a school named for him, while on vacation, I ask, how you choose to avoid it?

African enslavement, like the apartheid conditions of the Jim Crow era, was a reality for those who came before us that we cannot conveniently avoid until the “time is right” to teach it. Nor can we teach the subject haphazardly and without power. The vestiges of slavery are reflected in our public policies and public institutions. It is imperative that all of us wrestle with this truth in ways that challenge how we look at laws that marginalize and oppress non-white peoples along the intersections of race, class, religion and gender.

It is incumbent for educators, no matter their station, to cultivate the future leaders of our nation. That means striving to reduce ignorance; thereby reducing the potential of violence upon the various communities of our nation due to a lack of concrete knowledge rooted in historical truths.

Researchers and scholars have always contributed resources for educators to teach slavery in the proper context. But now more than ever do we find valid resources online that can help us teach slavery in a way that humanizes the enslaved while calling out the racial capitalism that is responsible for the development of our nations’ politics, economy and culture.

A recent and great example of this is the 1619 Project, spearheaded by Nikole Hannah-Jones of the New York Times Magazine. The August 18th edition of the magazine was entirely dedicated to connecting how our society was formed to where it stands today. It was a warning about where we could land as we sail into our future forgetful of our journey thus far. While there was backlash against the 1619 Project, it cannot be disputed that each author served as the architect for individual rooms that collectively displayed America’s blueprint.

These collection of essays, poems, and short stories serves as thread; a tool to weave together our nation’s incomplete narrative. My sincere hope and prayer is that this year, history teachers nationwide use resources like the 1619 Project to do the work of re-threading our nation’s narrative with the voices and stories that others have tirelessly worked to break silence and omit.

With that said, for history teachers who will teach students about the enslavement of Africans in the United States at some point this year, here are some topics you ABSOLUTELY MUST TEACH. With each topic is an article and book that will assist with familiarizing you with the topic so that you can create a lesson from it (I apologize for not listing the title and linking the site to find it – time did not permit me to do so):

  1. Slave Rebellion & Slave Resistance
  2. Haitian Revolution & The Louisiana Purchase
  3. Maroon Communities
  4. Mexico & The Underground Railroad
  5. Enslavement: Cause for the American Revolution
  6. Enslavement: Cause for the Texas Revolution
  7. Abraham Lincoln, American Colonization Society and Black Deportation to Central American
  8. The Electoral College & Three-Fifths Compromise
  9. Redemption & Lost Cause
  10. Reparations for Enslavement

Let’s continue to press towards the mark!

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