Why We Teach African American History

Black History Month

The month of February marks National Black History Month in the United States – a month dedicated to honoring the triumphs and struggles of African Americans throughout U.S. history. However, teaching African American History must be integrated throughout the year, not just for one month.

“Although we focus some activities on African American history during February, we want to ensure we are continuing those lessons throughout the year,” says Dr. Kimberly Leverette, executive director of Flint & Genesee Education & Talent.

According to a 2015 study by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, in general, Black history accounts for “only 1 to 2 lessons or 8–9 percent of total class time.” This shows that students may not be getting adequate education on African American history and culture.

Continually teaching African American history and culture in YouthQuest is especially important because of the community the program serves. According to Census data, 54.1 percent of Flint residents self-identified as Black or African American, the largest racial population in the city.

Through YouthQuest, students are exposed to elements of African American history and culture throughout the year by featuring books by Black authors, embedded lessons in African American history and providing clubs that explore African American culture, such as Drum and Dance Club with vendor Kuungana African Drum and Dance Company.

During the month of February, staff will focus more on these lessons and expand upon the teachings with a variety of activities. This includes African American history trivia, art projects focusing on African American culture and history, reading Hair Like Mine by Latashia M. Perry and other books written by African American and Black authors, and taking a field trip to the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit.

These activities – combined with continued learning – aim to help bridge the gap in education around African American history and culture and help students honor and celebrate the achievements of Black and African Americans in the past and today.