Reading & Literacy

Author Alice Walker Joins Facebook to Talk Black History Month

By Anthony Rebora — February 05, 2016 2 min read
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A couple of the more interesting Black History Month resources we’ve come across this year aren’t explicitly packaged for classroom use—but they certainly contain a lot of potential lesson or discussion ideas.

For example: To mark the month, the famed and controversial author Alice Walker has opened a Facebook account to talk with readers about her renowned novel The Color Purple and African-American culture and literary history in general.

In her opening posts, she provides short—but quite nuanced—personal reflections on W.E.B. Du Bois (whose book Black Reconstruction she says opened her eyes to “what really happened to the South after the Civil War”) and the poet Langston Hughes (a “gentle, almost courtly, a great storyteller [and smoker!], as well as being a humor-sensitive man.”)

Walker also confides that she hasn’t always been a big fan of Black History Month. The fact that it “attempted to compress all of black history into a single month, seemed the ultimate segregation.” Now, however, she sees it as an opportunity “to double down on our efforts to learn who we as Americans actually are, shorn of the myths too many have spun about us.”

To that end, she notes that one of her goals in getting on Facebook is to help her followers discover “how lovely it can be when books, across decades and centuries, nevertheless talk to each other.” If nothing else, the page could offer leads and inspiration to language arts and social studies teachers looking to integrate Black History Month themes into their lessons.

Meanwhile, the New York Times has launched a fascinating photo feature called “Unpublished Black History.” Every day this month, the editors will be posting at least one never before published photo from the paper’s archives highlighting key moments and figures in African-American history. Individuals featured so far include James Baldwin, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and Lena Horne.

Further, each entry includes in a short write-up exploring the context for the photo and how the story fit into the Times broader coverage (or didn’t fit in, in many instances). In some cases, the editors are also crowdsourcing readers’ feedback to fill in gaps in the paper’s knowledge about circumstances behind the photos.

So in addition to black history there’s a media literacy component to this project that could make for some interesting classroom discussions or assignments.

But let’s hear from you. Are there Black History Month resources that have caught your eye or that you’re using with success? Please share your insights and finds in the comments section.

Image: Author and human rights activist Alice Walker at a 2011 news conference. Credit: Petros Giannakouris/AP-File

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.