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Students learn about local black history

February 11, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

Photographs, poetry and lectures were used to take students at Bester Elementary School on a trip back in time Tuesday during a Black History Month celebration by the local community group Each One Teach One.

"Who was John Brown? What street is the core of the African-American community in Hagerstown?" asked Each One Teach One President Brian Robinson as he quizzed an audience of about 100 students on Washington County's African-American history.

Some students at the school in the South End of Hagerstown recognized John Brown.

"He helped free the slaves" yelled one student with excitement.

"Jonathan Street" shouted a different student in response to another question. Nearly all of the students recognized a picture of the late civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whom students said helped whites and blacks get along better.

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Robinson teamed up with childhood friend and local community activist Harold Howard, who lectured students about the history of Africa, the historic 1963 march on Washington, and the contributions of such figures as Malcolm X.

Robinson said Each One Teach One members volunteer to talk to local students about local black history to supplement what's being taught in history classes. Each One Teach One is a nonprofit group dedicated to working with youth and adults to improve the community.

"We are dedicated to working with inner city kids. We're just trying to put pride back in our community," Robinson said.

Students like 9-year old Monica Maloy got the message. "You learn about history. You learn that it doesn't matter what color you are," she said.

Although students are studying the contributions of Marylanders such as John Brown and Frederick Douglass, "Each One Teach One offered a first-hand look at local African-American history," fourth-grade teacher Sara Belin said.

"A lot of students live here, and they've all been to Jonathan Street and this helps them relate to the importance of this area," Belin said.

The students were given fliers highlighting some local black businesses and historically significant people and sites. They included the Just Us barber shop on Jonathan Street, Buffalo Soldier Cpl. William Othello Wilson and a plaque commemorating the site of the Harmon Hotel, founded by the late Walter Harmon.

It's important for kids to know about the time baseball great Willie Mays stayed in the hotel back in 1950, when segregation prevented blacks from staying anywhere else, Howard said.

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