Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Connections for Black History Month

Teaching the Holocaust to inner city students is a crucial part of their education. In my first year at a school where the students are predominantly African American and living in generational poverty, I discovered that my students weren’t aware that others had suffered discrimination at a great cost, too. During my first Black History Month at that school, most student-initiated conversation regarding the civil rights movement began with, “all of the white people didn’t like black people, and so...” Not only were they unaware of the history of other groups, but they did not know that people of other ethnicities, among them Jews and Holocaust survivors, had a large role in starting and financially backing many important civil rights organizations, such as the NAACP.

I first investigated why the students weren’t aware of the role of many who weren’t African American, including Jews, had in the civil rights movement. I polled students, and found that the length of a generation in the families of my school were shorter than average. Couple that with a lower average lifespan, and I began to see that the knowledge wasn’t there because, in their community, possible participants might not be around to give a first-hand account of the civil rights movement.

We began with comparing Jim Crow laws to the Nuremburg Laws. Students responded very positively to the information, and began to understand that many have been oppressed. Even the more disconnected students wanted to participate and learn.

The next year, Black History Month was much different. Students’ explanations began with, “many blacks were being oppressed, and so many people of ALL walks of life worked together to…”

Websites to investigate:

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