Most public educational resources lack black history in America
opinion / editorial / guest column
Many of us remember hearing about famous and historic black Americans who have left their mark on American history, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, and former President Barack Obama. Although famous for their contributions, achievements, and plight for racial equality in America, the full story is only partially told.
Most public educational resources only scratch the surface of black history in America. You won’t see most of the outstanding achievements of blacks throughout American history. When American history is under-represented and devoid of black history, we miss out on some of the greatest inspirational stories ever told.
This is the reason why I co-founded the Yocum African American History Association. I am white and my partner is black. We both believe that when Americans know each other better, it is the surest path to unity. We were on a mission to uncover the hidden history of black people. Our quest is to demonstrate that black history is American history and we want to foster racial harmony.
We will be among those exhibiting and presenting at the Great Homeschool Convention in Jacksonville, July 22-24 at the Prime F. Osborn Convention Center.
How many students know the black heroes of the Revolutionary War? Thousands of free and slave blacks fought in all of the major battles from Lexington and Concord to Yorktown and served in an integrated army. Some blacks fought for the promise of freedom, while others fought for the independence of their country. In 1779, fifteen percent of the Continental Army were black. Peter Salem was born a slave and joined the Massachusetts Minutemen, and was a marksman who was instrumental in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Salem was honored in John Trumbull’s painting, “Battle of Bunker Hill”. James Armistead posed as a runaway slave and gained the trust of the British and gave strategic information on troop movements to the Continental Army, which earned him the success of the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 .
Students learn about the abolitionist movement and Harriet Tubman, but what about Levi and Catherine Coffin, who helped over 3,000 slaves escape to freedom? Or what about the runaway slaves Ellen and William Craft, who became active in the abolitionist movement? Or the wealthy free black James Forten family of Philadelphia, who were instrumental in the struggle for slave freedom.
Frederick Douglass was a well-known great orator, but what about Robert B. Elliott? Robert B. Elliott was a member of the United States Congress whose “The Chain is Broken” speech focused on the Civil Rights Bill of 1875, which enriched the meaning of freedom and citizenship. Elliott’s speech was so brilliant that some doubted he wrote it. In addition, more than 2,000 black leaders during Reconstruction at local, state, and national levels provided invaluable leadership to America.
There are thousands of stories of inspirational leaders: inventors such as Granville T. Woods, called the black Thomas Edison, obtained more than forty-five patents for his inventions, or the first black female doctor, Dr. Rebecca Crumpler. , graduated from medical school in 1864, or business people like the “king of the potato” Junius G. Groves who produced more white potatoes than anyone else in the world, or explorers like the first black astronaut Mae Jemison, or pioneering NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson of Hidden Figures, and talented professor of surgery, Vivien Thomas, who never went to college but received an honorary doctorate from Johns University Hopkins in 1976.
We founded the Yocum African American History Association in 2018 with the mission of expanding knowledge of the cultural sector, the educational community, and the public by making available materials on African American history.
Initially, our non-profit organization developed several lesson plans focused on comprehensive and well-researched stories, inspired by hundreds of original and historically accurate graphics, maps, signs and photographs. All information was obtained as a reference to prevent limited and stereotypical views of African American history.
After reviewing the lesson plans, Paragon House decided to publish the lesson plans as an eBook. The eBook titled Black History 1619-2019 was published and published in 2019.
Subsequently, we agreed with Paragon House to publish a print edition of the book with release in early 2021. Our new vision of having documented African American history available in libraries, schools and online platforms with public access throughout the country. I will be presenting “Tips for Teaching Black History in Your Homeschool” Saturday from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm in room 106.
We believe that knowledge is power and that education is the key to success. We also believe that the sharing of black history, which includes the important contributions of blacks to American history, is vital.
Sandra K. Yocum is founder and president of the Yocum African American History Association in Medina, Ohio.
Frances Presley Rice, co-founder and vice-president of the Yocum African American History Association, lives in Sarasota.