I'm a White Man Teaching African American History

On the first day of school I acknowledged the elephant in the room. I am a White man, teaching African American History, to a room full of (mostly) White students in Oklahoma. It was something I thought about A LOT during the summer as I was developing the curriculum for the course, and I wanted them to know that I knew. 

They didn't care - not even the Black students. I was surprised! But then I took a step back and reflected on their educational experience before walking through my door. 

Most of the students in this class are either juniors or seniors. They've taken or are currently taking Post-Civil War US History. I've taught that course and I know the extent to which students are exposed to African American History. 

The state of Oklahoma has standards that all US History courses must adhere to, and those do include some African American history. However, it's the embarrassingly obvious highlights: 

  • Black Codes, Jim Crow laws, and the Ku Klux Klan
  • Plessy v. Ferguson, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells
  • Poll taxes and literacy tests, Great Migration
  • Harlem Renaissance and the Jazz Age
  • Lynchings, Tulsa Race Riot, Marcus Garvey and black nationalism
  • Civil Rights Movement
    • Truman’s decision to desegregate the US Army
    • Birmingham church bombing
    • Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Black Panters
    • Brown v. Board of Education
    • Montgomery Bus Boycott 
    • Little Rock Central High School 
    • OKC lunch counter sit-ins led by Clara Luper 
    • Freedom Rides 
    • Marches on Washington and Selma to Montgomery 
    • 24th Amendment, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Voting Rights Act of 1965
Imagine the last 160 years of White US History being distilled into a bullet-pointed list that would fit in a tweet?!? The entirety of post-Civil War history being defined by 7 individuals?!? It's ludicrous, it's unfortunate, and it's led to a situation where my students gladly accept a White man teaching Black history.

Once I knew my students were on board, I was excited to open their eyes to a curriculum that advocated and explored African American History. During the first semester, we explored:
  • The origin of all humans and of the African slave trade
  • The arrival of African slaves to America in 1619
  • The African experience during the Middle Passage
  • The possibility of emancipation and the rise of abolitionists during colonial times
  • The role of African Americans during the Revolutionary War
  • The experiences of individual slaves at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate
  • The experiences of individual slaves at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello estate
  • An analysis of Frederick Douglass' autobiography
  • An examination of slave rebellions during the Antebellum period
  • An examination of the Black Lives Matter movement
During the first semester, we focused on the individual lives of Africans/slaves/African Americans. This trend will continue throughout the second semester as we press into the 20th and 21st Century of African American history. 

There are SO MANY stories to explore, so many individuals to research, so much history to share, and so much we must do to showcase the important contributions African Americans have provided to American history.

Technology Integration

In addition to teaching the history of African Americans in the United States, I've also committed to incorporating technology into each unit we cover. This has been both a challenge and a true joy for me as a teacher.

During this course we've used the following resources:
We will continue to use the entire "Google for Education" suite and incorporate additional resources, including additional video, audio, and technology options.

Antiracism Curriculum

One important note that I want to emphasize is that the curriculum for this course takes an antiracist stance. Much like the lessons of Ibram X. Kendi's book How to be an Antiracist, I continuously focus on teaching African American history with an antiracist bend. 

A key feature of antiracism is recognizing Black and White. We cannot recognize the efforts of African Americans in the country without recognizing their blackness. We cannot recognize the racist past of White Americans without recognizing their whiteness. We cannot recognize where we are in America today without recognizing both Black and White history. To do so is to give a voice to the voiceless and give a fair analysis of the true historical record of this great country.

Josh DeLozier

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