Guest post by Molly Tansey
When I was young, I was involved with a performing arts group that put on a Black History Month program every February. I grew up singing protest songs and Lift Every Voice and Sing and watching the older kids sing a haunting rendition of Strange Fruit. When my family moved to South Carolina, I lost Black History Month’s presence in my life, but eventually joined my sister on the high school step team. As in many schools, the step team was responsible for putting together a show for Black History Month. One memory stands out in particular. The entire step team was quietly singing “We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome, one day” over and over behind the curtains as someone read Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the podium. It was chilling.
For me, not doing something to honor Black History Month in my classroom wasn’t an option. At 9 p.m. on January 31st, I was racking my brain for ideas. I’m in my student teaching semester and barely keeping my head above water as it is, not to mention the overwhelming amount of work we need to get done in class. It had to be something simple.
For the month of February, I’ll be featuring a different black writer every day, focusing on those whose books can be found on my shelves or in the school library. Before I introduced the first author, I asked my kids what was special about this month. A lot of them shouted out Valentine’s Day, and I even got a couple who eagerly volunteered President’s Day. It was a while before anyone mentioned Black History Month. Most of them had no idea, and a few of my kids told me they’d never heard of it.
We started on February 1st with one of my personal favorites, Jason Reynolds, and I already have more than a few kids who are eager to get their hands on his books. From there we moved on to John Lewis, a Congressman from their very own state and a well-known civil rights activist. We may be an English class, but it’s clear to me we need some history, too.
You can find the daily slides I use here.
Molly Tansey is a second-year MAT candidate at the University of Georgia. She is currently in her student teaching semester in a 6th grade English classroom. Molly is a coordinating member of the Young Teachers Collective as well as a member of Educolor. You can follow her on Twitter @molly_tansey.
The opinions expressed in The Intersection: Culture and Race in Schools are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.