Evanston/North Shore

Black History Month isn’t just for schoolchildren

by Eileen Hogan Heineman, Co-Director of Racial Justice Programs
Posted February 12, 2016

It’s February, which means it’s Black History Month. As a 30-year educator and a 15-year racial justice worker, I know how vitally important this is. I believe that until every textbook in every classroom in the United States contains all the history that has been missing for so long, we must intentionally work to get these stories told.

And it shouldn’t only be one month. Throughout the entire year, students should be made aware of the presence, role, and sacrifices made by all peoples – American Indians, Hispanics, Asians, Blacks, Europeans – in the building of this country.

Moreover, this learning should not only be in schools. All of us, particularly elected officials, need to be aware of the full picture of our country’s history. 

Here are some great books that can help those of us no longer in school “catch up” on what was not included in our textbooks:

  • People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn
  • A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America – Ronald Takaki
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong – James W. Loewen

Each of these illuminating books is available in our YWCA Racial Justice lending library in the southeast corner of our lobby, or at your local public library. 

Another incredibly valuable read is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. It tells the story of The Great Migration, which brought six million black Americans from the south to points north and west in the U.S. between 1920 and 1970.

We need our eyes opened not only to the history of blacks in America, but also to the present realities of people in our own communities. This reflection from a junior at Northwestern, "The Spectrum: Minority students belong at Northwestern,"  is a perfect example.

This young woman’s experiences would not surprise most people of color, but they are not a part of my daily life, or the lives of most people who walk through the world in white skin. How can we make sure that we are working every day to shine a light on these types of incidents? What can I, as a white woman, do to enact change?

Please consider sharing this post with your social media circles, so more people will have the chance to read her story. Perhaps you have other stories to tell. I’d be eager to hear them at: eheineman@ywcae-ns.org.

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