Features Issue 6 Magazine

The Efforts History Teachers are Making to Teach Black History Month

By Andrew Martinez Cabrera

Graphic By Rin Boegel

Black History Month, created by African American historian Carter G. Woodson, marks the month where we observe, are reminded of and celebrate the victories and plights African Americans from all over the world have experienced. Las Lomas History teacher Lynn Schwab agrees with this sentiment, but adds that Black History Month is also a “discussion on how Black History can be a neglected or hidden part of larger histories,” which is the primary driving force on why Woodson felt the need to create the monthly celebration.

When asking if our own history teachers can go into depth about African American history, I found that it all depends on the class – whether it is regular or an advanced placement (AP) class.

China Harvey, a US History and AP US History teacher at Las Lomas, said, “In my US history class, I’m teaching the class thematically rather than chronologically. So at the beginning of the year, our first unit was on the African American Freedom Movement. So we spent six weeks really diving into Black history…” However, AP classes operate under different circumstances. Harvey elaborated by saying, “The curriculum is given to me by the College Board and I try as best I can to weave in Black history as… seamlessly and as integrally as I think it should be woven in.”

Whether the College Board decides what historical content should be prioritized or teachers, like Harvey, teach the class thematically instead of chronologically, history teachers still feel that in order to tell the American story, the experiences of African Americans are ineluctable from the genesis of our country. Las Lomas History teacher Mark Pitzak said, “Slavery, racism, degradation, progress and reform, triumph and achievement, and all things in between that are not just part of the African-American experience, but are integral to [American] history.” 
Whether a history class solely focused on American events or broadened towards the rest of the world, there’s still not enough time for teachers to delve into specific events with an already cramped curriculum, even with the assistance of targeted lessons during cohort academy. People such as Emperor Menelik of Ethiopia, the Black troops that served during WWI, or female activists Ida B. Wells and Kathleen Cleaver and the Black Panther Party may go untalked about or skimmed over during class time due to time and other constraints. Though, according to Pitzak, his role as a teacher allows him to “reserve time for these topics throughout the year and not just in February.”

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