Black History Taught in September & The 50th Anniversary of ‘I Have a Dream’

Illustration by Kadir Nelson 2012

Illustration by Kadir Nelson 2012

As we embark on the 50th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s  delivery of his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and march again to Washington, on August 24th, 2013, I like to think my young students will be having discussions about these events in their homes, with their families, during these last weeks of summer before the school year.  Goodness knows they’ll be having them with me in the classroom, come September.

I Have A Dream by Martin Luther King. Illustrations by Kadir Nelson.  Schwartz & Wade 2012

I Have A Dream by Martin Luther King. Illustrations by Kadir Nelson.
Schwartz & Wade 2012

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin by Larry Dane Brimner

We Are One: The Story of Bayard Rustin
by Larry Dane Brimner

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco Published by Philomel 1994

Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco
Published by Philomel 1994

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison

I, Too, Am America By Langston Hughes Illustrated by Bryan Collier Simon & Schuster 2012

I, Too, Am America
By Langston Hughes
Illustrated by Bryan Collier
Simon & Schuster 2012

Ellington Was Not A Street By Ntozake Shange Illustrated by Kadir Nelson Simon & Schuster 2004

Ellington Was Not A Street
By Ntozake Shange
Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
Simon & Schuster 2004

The 50th anniversary of ‘I Have A Dream’ provides me with a perfect “excuse” to begin our American history lessons in September (through June), rather than the too-easily-embraced-custom of teaching it only from February 1st – 28th. Who can object to my lessons beginning in September? After all, I am a Dreamkeeper, and tomorrow’s march on Washington makes The Civil Rights Movement a current event.  The Civil Rights Movement is now.

Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher

1st Graders & The Civil Rights Movement 2.0

This video clip is from February, 2012.
One of my first graders asked me why there were no laws to protect black people back in the day, and thus our conversation on civil rights began. It’s a rough, unscripted clip, and you’ll notice that I affirm almost everything they say. When I reference “The past” before speaking about an ill truth in our society, it’s not because I am feeding my students the falsehood that ‘oppression’ and ‘hate’ are not still prevalent today. Those direct truths come towards the end of the school year, once I’ve built up their hearts and minds to be resilient. Truth can either free or oppress, depending on the development of the child. Mindful timing and scaffolding is vital. Also, the art of teaching is surely a process. I’ve only had one school year of practice in engaging students in this kind of dialogue, so please excuse the amateur discussion-guiding that I display. Their insightful responses trump my lack of flow anyways.

Thanks for watching The Picture Book Pusher

COLORLINES: A NEW RACIAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT?

I choose picture books, for my classroom, that support this kind of mentality. Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.

BEAUTIFUL, ALSO, ARE THE SOULS OF MY BLACK SISTERS

The Return of Direct Action

It’s not just Trayvon. From immigrant rights to voter ID, young, Obama-era organizers have turned up. Dani McClain reports.

Building a New Racial Justice Movement

Rinku Sen writes that harnessing the new activist energy that will be witnessed at this weekend’s March on Washington takes more than putting the word “new” in front of “civil rights movement.

Stop and Frisk, South Asians and Kal Penn’s Tweets

When the actor tweeted support for NYPD’s policy, South Asian leaders responded with a clear rebuttal–and Penn agreed.

A Tale of Two (or Three) Marches in Washington, D.C. Brentin Mock hashes out the who, what and when of the March on Washington anniversary events.

Still Marching for Jobs The economic justice demands of the 1963 March on Washington remain unmet, writes Imara Jones.

‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ and the History of Black Work at the White House A look…

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Engineer turned picture book author, Fredrick McKissack, dies at age 73.

Engineer turned picture book author, Fredrick McKissack, dies at age 73.

I’ll admit that I hadn’t heard of either Patricia or Fredrick McKissack by name, until I came across several newspaper obituaries, earlier today. Realizing only after that I own and use many of their books in my classroom. Many. Fredrick McKissack was the coauthor, and researcher of over a dozen non-fiction children’s books focused on the history of African-Americans. The above link will take you to the NY Times obituary of Frederick McKissack.

Race, Education and Democracy Lecture and Book Series 2013

The Race, Education and Democracy Lecture and Book Series is an annual event held at Simmons College, organized by Professor Theresa Perry for Beacon Press Books.   The lecture series, held in the spring, brings distinguished movers and shakers in the field of education, to discuss their latest book, published through Beacon Press. I first attended the series back in ’07 while an undergraduate at Simmons College. Patricia Hill Collins and Imani Perry were the speakers. The event was life changing.

The Series proceeds on the assumption that public education is at the center of American public life and that discussions about critical educational issues need to occur in the public domain and engage Americans from many different backgrounds in thoughtful and complicated conversations.

– http://www.raceandeducation.com   Home page, paragraph 4

This year’s event brought us Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, discussing the themes: Standing Up For Justice/Creating Opportunity: From the Birmingham Children’s Crusade to Creating Excellence in Math, Science and Technology. 

Every year the event is sure to have prominent scholars, passionate educators, and Beacon Press Books for sale, specifically if not solely, books written by the speaker. However, this year’s lecture series had something extra special: PICTURE BOOKS!  We have Prof. Perry to thank for that.  Most of the picture books sold out. I was able to snag two.

 Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison. Published by Houghton Mifflin. Boston. 2004

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison, uses photographs and text to tell its story. Morrison elicits mindfulness in the young reader, by writing through the voice of children and adolescents from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s.  So important, and time saving is this book. As a teacher of young children, it takes much time to craft the right words to speak to children, regarding painful truths in our history. If I am not mindful in my word choice, then my truths may oppress, rather than empower, their young spirits.  I want to convey not only what happened, but also a perspective that can empower them and promote resilience. Morrison takes the guess-work out of choosing the right discourse.

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison. Published by Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 2004 Pg. 28

“I don’t know. My buddies talked me into this. They said it would be fun. It’s not, but these guys are my friends and friends are more important than strangers. Even if they’re wrong. Aren’t they?”
Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison. Pg. 28

Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison. "I know the water I am drinking at  this fountain is the same as the water over there. The whites know it too. Seems foolish but it's not. It's important if you want to make a grown man feel small. It's extra work and costs more money to have two fountains when one will do, and to pretend water cares who's drinking it. But I guess some folks will do anything to make themselves feel big." pg. 52

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“I know the water I am drinking at this fountain is the same as the water over there. The whites know it too. Seems foolish but it’s not. It’s important if you want to make a grown man feel small. It’s extra work and costs more money to have two fountains when one will do, and to pretend water cares who’s drinking it. But I guess some folks will do anything to make themselves feel big.” Remember: The Journey to School Integration by Toni Morrison pg. 52

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson. Illustrated by Benny Andrews

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson. Illustrated by Benny Andrews. Published by Lee & Low Books, Inc. New York. 2006

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson. Illustrated by Benny Andrews. Published by Lee & Low Books, Inc. New York. 2006

This book is so important. Its a nonfiction tale with a message that,  ‘young people can be game changers too’. At least that’s the message that I took from the book. John Lewis began his life as an organizer at a young age.  The reader follows the life of John from his elementary years through adult hood.    The illustrations portray the simplicity of John Lewis’ home and school. In contrast the authors’ words portray the protagonist as a child with layers of cognitive substance. This mesh of simplicity and substance provides young readers the opportunity to conclude that great ideas and great people can come from limited means.

Aunt Seneva started to cry, and the children began to sob too. Then Aunt Seneva gathered her courage. “Everybody hold hands!” she called, and the frightened children did as they were told…The storm didn’t last long, but John never forgot that day. – Haskins and Benson pg. 3

Illustration by Benny Andrews for John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.  Pg. 4

Illustration by Benny Andrews for
John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.
Pg. 4

John realized that segregation was keeping his family from having a better life. This made him angry…One day when he was fifteen, John heard Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the radio…It was time to turn things upside down in order to set them right side up. – Haskins and Benson pg. 7

Illustration by Benny Andrews for  John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.  Pg. 8

Illustration by Benny Andrews for
John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.
Pg. 8

Inspired by Dr. King, John took his first steps to protest segregation. He asked for a library card at his county public library, knowing that black people were not allowed to have cards. John was not surprised that the librarian said the library was for whites only. then he went home and wrote the library a letter of protest. – Haskin and Benson pg. 10

Illustration by Benny Andrews for John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.  Pg. 9

Illustration by Benny Andrews for John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement.
Pg. 9

A time line, of John Lewis’ significant life events, is provided at the end of the book, along with photographs.  Every elementary classroom should have this book. You can order it through Lee & Low, here.

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While I have your attention, I’d like to share something Dr. Hrabowski and Dean of Students at Brookline Public Schools, Dr. Adrian Mims spoke on, at the lecture:  Doing math in numbers.   What’s that mean you ask? It means that if you are a teacher of students from diverse backgrounds, then be mindful of how you group your students. If students of color are the minority, then don’t just deploy them evenly into the rest of the groups, by default. Just because they are the minority within a peer group of students, doesn’t mean that their ideas have to be the minority within their work groups as well. Let them think together. Thinking together provides affirmation, respect, and a sustainable voice. Thus, when making math groups for students, make sure that students can work in numbers, not just as the sole minority within the group.  Dr. Mims actually wrote on the benefits of grouping students together in his dissertation,  “Improving African American Achievement in Geometry Honors”.

Overall this year’s lecture gave me lots to think about. Lots to live for.

Thanks for reading The Picture Book Pusher.

p.s. during the question and answer period, someone asked Dr. Hrabowski what his favorite picture book was (it wasn’t me, really!). His answer: The Velveteen Rabbit. He said that the book’s message is deep and profound.