Sunday, January 31, 2016

Black History Month: Off the Beaten Path

Tomorrow is the beginning of Black History Month, or African-American History Month.

Quick, name me a famous African-American!

Odds are, you just said Martin Luther King.  Or Barack Obama.  Or the name of an African-American in the entertainment industry, or in professional athletics.

I want to change that.  I want you to think of some other people, not necessarily the "go-to" people we think of when we think of famous African-Americans.  Several years ago, I thought about what I would do if I were a teacher during Black History Month.  What I decided I'd do was to give my students two assignments:

1. Research and write about a famous or accomplished African-American.  You may not write about any of the following:
a. Martin Luther King or any member of the King family.
b. Barack Obama or any member of the Obama family.
c. Any professional athlete.
d. Anyone in the film, TV, or music business.

2. Research and write about whites who were active in either the abolitionist movement or the Civil Rights movement.

The reason for the first assignment?  To give my students an idea of African-Americans that are famous or accomplished and who are not sports, entertainment, or athletic stars; or who are not Martin Luther King or Barack Obama.

The reason for the second assignment?  To show my students that white people are not necessarily "the enemy" when it comes to black people.

I'm not a teacher, so I can't give that assignment.  But I am a writer, and I asked myself:  why not write up a series of blog posts about this very subject?

So this month, I will be writing a series of posts going "off the beaten path", as it were, profiling some African-Americans that aren't as well known as Martin Luther King, or Barack Obama.  I'll be talking about scientists, amateur athletes, preachers, and other such people.  I'll also be writing about white people who sided with African-Americans in their struggle for freedom.

At the end of the month, I'm sure I will have learned a great deal.

I hope you will, too.

Just my .04, adjusted for inflation.