Black History Month always arrives just after our celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and a time to honor Civil Rights Activists. This year we took a cue from Mr. Brian Harris’ latest book, We Are Our History and Mr. Williams’ themes of African American history. Our BWS Kings followed the geographic and historic trail back to the royal leaders of ancient African empires, specifically Sundiata and Mansa Musa of Mali. These were amazing leaders who developed vast trade routes and brought peace, faith, wealth and universities to Western Africa starting in the 13th C.
At the beginning of each session, we banged the Djembe drum to create a Story Circle. Even the youngest scholars heard old tales from ancient Africa that answered questions like: How did man learn to get along with animals of the world? Who inspired the first Kente cloth?
The Library created crates full of books for teachers to easily browse. Whenever a teacher informs us of a class research project or theme of study we like to make it accessible and transportable for the busy teachers. Especially now that the staff is in the building only a few days per month, we hope our theme boxes opened up ready resources.
The next theme in our historic march was the Middle Passage. This entailed covering the brutal kidnap and capture of Africans and then their horrific transport across the Atlantic Ocean. The older scholars heard and saw pictures of this passage, especially through Julius Lester’s The Old African history book.
All ages learned of another Passage and that is the one that led out of slavery. We followed Harriet Tubman from childhood to the latest declaration that she will replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. We learned of Philip Reid who learned about working with bronze and gold from a slave born in West Africa. He helped piece together the huge bronze statue of Freedom that still sits atop the Capitol Building. And we followed all of this history and more in Kadir Nelson’s award winning Heart and Soul, a detailed fictionalized retelling of the story of African ancestry in America. As always, he poured his heart into the vivid illustrations.