GOOD

The Problem with Black History Month

There’s a few good reasons to suspect the month hinders, rather than helps, understanding and celebrating black contributions to civilization.

Every year, I experience a sense of frustration ahead of the barrage of ads (Coca-Cola, Nike, AT&T, or Wal-Mart, as the case may be) that use black actors and are exclusively targeted towards Black History Month. Yes, these corporate titans care very much about the black experience, past, present, and future—these good-natured advertisements are our proof. But don’t check for that cute little girl in afro puffs asking her Idris Elba-doppelganger daddy why the all-new-for-2015 Chevy Impala is like Harriet Tubman (I-95 being the Underground Railroad, naturally) come April. By then it’ll be back to business as usual, and most of the faces on the flat screen will once again be white.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles


Through A City Education, City Year corps members share their experiences working as tutors and mentors in schools in hopes of closing the opportunity gap and ending the dropout crisis.

Across the country, during the month of February, students will be reading texts or glancing at posters celebrating inspiring black change makers, leaders and activists. But, reading text about black history isn't always enough to cultivate engagement in the subject or to understand the significance of the roles African American leaders have played in history—beyond Black History Month.

During my first year with City Year, when I initially asked some students, “Why do you think Black History Month is important?” I got a few responses such as: "I don't know...'cause of civil rights?" or "Martin Luther King Jr.?" It took me by surprise that while my school's student body was over 40 percent African American, and the students have been in school for over a decade, there was still a gap between the school curriculum and what they were retaining about our nation's past.

Keep Reading Show less
Articles

Beyond Black History Month: Teaching Steinbeck and Malcolm X Side by Side

We ought to take the next step and celebrate black history on March 1st, too.


First, I'd like to acknowledge that, on the chance that you're a teacher who is actually celebrating Black History Month: Congrats. You haven't let the Common Core madness deter you from celebrating culture, whether it's your own or someone else's. But we all know how Black History Month works in schools: The decorations will spring up. Common faces like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Benjamin Banneker, and Will Smith will border the walls of a few classrooms or hallways. There might be a fact-a-day in the morning announcements, and one in 400 schools might have someone who knows the Black National Anthem. (I bet you're mumbling the lyrics after the fourth line.)

But, has it ever occurred to you that, as well-intentioned as this might be, we ought to take the next step and celebrate black history on March 1st as well?

Keep Reading Show less
Articles