More than just a month

February 07, 2005|by JULIE E. GREENE

I write poetry, too
I write about love
And hip-hop
- "Visiting Langston" by Willie Perdomo

Those are the words of a little girl who author Willie Perdomo wrote about as she was preparing to visit African-American poet Langston Hughes.

Fountaindale Elementary School media specialist Mironda Peace read the book "Visiting Langston" to students in kindergarten through fifth grade last week as part of their poetry unit.

Peace chose the book because the story speaks to the students' age and the girl enjoys writing poetry, so it was relevant to their study topic.


The next day was Feb. 1, marking the beginning of Black History Month.

Tri-State educators said the teaching of black history is not restricted to February. Nor is it limited to studies of slavery, the Civil War and Martin Luther King Jr.

"Black history is all year long," Peace said. "Black history is American history as well. It's not just black history. It's history."

Eighth- and ninth-graders taking American Studies get to use new resources such as the "A History of Us" series by Joy Hakim that is biographical and narrative in nature, said Clyde Harrell, supervisor for secondary social studies for Washington County Public Schools.

"A textbook can come across dry. But people love history if they can read about people, what they've done," Harrell said.

The book series includes information about William Armistead's slave, James, who spied on the British during the Revolutionary War for French hero Marquis de Lafayette. Later, James was declared a free man and he took the name James Armistead Lafayette.

The American Studies classes use McDougal Littell's "Creating America: A History of the United States" textbooks, Harrell said.

A look in the index under African-Americans for the 1877 to 21st Century textbook finds references to the abolition movement, American Revolution, baseball, buffalo soldiers, cattle industry, civil rights, civil rights movement, Civil War, Great Depression, Great Migration, Harlem Renaissance, Ku Klux Klan, music, peonage (indebted labor), population in pre-Civil War South, Reconstruction, segregation, slavery, sports, Thirteenth Amendment, Vietnam War, voting rights, World War I, World War II and post-World War II.

During February, most schools will have special programs centered around black history, said Harrell and Jill Burkhart, supervisor for elementary reading, social studies and early learning.

Examples at the elementary schools include morning announcements with information about black history, Burkhart said.

Events concerning Black History Month vary from school to school in the Chambersburg (Pa.) Area School District, said Eric Michael, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

An annual event includes an essay contest highlighting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s achievements and their relation to today's society, he said.

In Berkeley County (W.Va.) Schools, Black History Month activities will include essay and artwork contests and using selected stories about famous African-Americans for reading and writing assignments, according to a fax from Lynne Gober, diversity facilitator for the school system.

Some aspects of black history are taught year-round in Berkeley County Schools, but not highlighted as black history items, Gober said.

Black history is integrated into the regular curriculum, Gober said. For example, students studying jazz might talk about Duke Ellington's influence, she said.

Michael said the history of blacks and other minorities is integrated into curriculum throughout the year, taught as teachable moments when students are studying a particular time period or subject.

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