I read one of the most candid articles I have seen in a minute regarding teaching history, or rather, the mis-teaching of history, especially the era of slavery. You can read the entire article here. The article was a portion of the fruit of a “Teaching Hard History” project, birthed from the “Teaching Tolerance” initiative. And though I struggle with some of what the term “tolerance” has come to embody, there are parts of this article that truly resonated with me:
- The glossing over of the horrors of slavery by only teaching about Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass
- Teaching slavery, and the mentality that kept it alive, as only a southern problem
- The failure to teach subsequent eras of history effectively because of a lack of real understanding as to how we got there in the first place
It made me think about how and why I birthed A Blessed Heritage.
I started by marking the very Euro-centric curriculum I was using, knowing that there were many stories that were left untold. Those stories were not just about people who looked like me, but about many of those with more melanin. Not until later did it occur to me, partly through the coercing of others, that what I undertook might be of interest to someone else. What the Lord has done since with that particular set of loaves and fish is nothing short of mind-blowing. I am convinced that He honored the business in the way that He has because I wrote truth (as much as I know it), pointing back to Him as the Lord, God of all.
God taught the tough subjects. In doing so, He modeled for us that 1) in this world, we will have tribulation, and 2) that our tribulations will result in ultimate victory—IF we trust God to do what He says He will do.
Why teach history? If all you hope to gain from it is knowledge and memorization/ regurgitation of facts, God bless you. As I see it, however, learning history should be a catalyst for change. History should help us learn why current events exist; it should point us toward an appropriate level of empathy and understanding, toward solutions rather than the perpetuation of problems.
If we seek truth, not only can we learn; we can grow. And we can change, in the spirit of Nehemiah 1, acknowledging that we do not want to be a part of the problem. We can embrace our future with intelligence and expectation, as James Weldon Johnson penned so eloquently back in 1900.
‘Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chast’ning rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet,
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Here now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.’
(excerpt from James Weldon Johnson’s “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black National Anthem, set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson in 1905)