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Middletown Teacher Spotlights Local Heroes for Black History Month

Each February, Black History Month highlights the accomplishments and struggles of the people and events in history with this cultural heritage. It’s meant to be a way for us to learn from each other, celebrating our diversity while recognizing what happened historically to minorities.

The first ideas for Black History Month came about in 1926. Historian Carter G. Woodson announced that the second week of February would be dedicated to studying African diaspora culture. [[1]]

It was chosen because that week coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. [[2]] When the NAACP was initially formed, it occurred on the centennial celebration of Lincoln’s birthday.

Our first modern Black History Month was introduced at Kent State University in February 1970. It was recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976 during the U.S. bicentennial. At the time, President Ford said that he hoped Americans would “seize the opportunity” to honor the often-neglected accomplishments of African Americans. [[3]]

Sixth-Grade Students Get to Learn Local History

Teacher Anedra Million thought that instructing students from a homegrown perspective would be more effective for Black History Month than using a default curriculum. Students at Highview Sixth Grade Center now get lessons each time they walk the main hallway, thanks to several large posters that are currently in place there.

“Pioneers can start in any generation and in any community,” Million told the Journal-News. She has a doctorate in education and was the co-coordinator for the project. [[4]]

The posters stand at eye level for the students. They feature a photograph and bio of 16 local heroes. When there’s a pause in the day, anyone in the school can come to look at and read the individualized portraits.

As part of the display, Million notes that there is a scavenger hunt to make the activity interactive. Students get to apply what they learn about their community’s historical figures before incorporating that information into their studies.

One of the local heroes featured in the project is Robert “Sonny” Hill. He served on the Middletown City Commission for 11 years. In 2001, Hill was elected as the town’s first African-American mayor. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2004, but his name lives on in recognition at the community center.

Another figure featured in the Middletown posters is Rudolph Pringle. His bio says that he was raised by his mother and grandmother, who “instilled in him the desire to serve God and humanity.” Bishop Pringle fought for equal rights for everyone, making him a local trailblazer.

From civic activism to community support, sixth graders are finding with this display that skin color isn’t a reflection of how or when someone can decide to help another.

“We hear about all the people who are national heroes, but we wanted them to see the contributions that are made by African Americans that maybe some of them could be related to or have friends that their families know,” said Million.

Check out the video interview about this story from WCPO 9 Cincinnati here: wcpo.com

For more information on Middleton Highview 6th Grade Center and the great things they're doing, visit their Facebook page

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Did You Know That Each Black History Month Comes with a Specific Theme?

Since 1976, every American President has designated February as Black History Month and endorsed a specific theme for this celebration and educational opportunity.

In 2022, the theme is Black Health and Wellness. It explores how scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine positively impacted the country while incorporating natural treatment options.  [[5]]

The power of local leadership is another topic that students benefit from learning about in their curriculum. When people within a community care deeply about helping it, they can influence others while making significant positive impacts. Whether through improved preparedness or a better understanding of the region’s history, those elements define who each of us is at a core level.

When those elements get incorporated into Black History Month and other learning opportunities, it creates an alternative educational option that encourages students to look at their own preconceived notions and potential biases.

Racism is learned behavior. It doesn’t always need to be intimidating or violent to be problematic in today’s society. Making hurtful jokes or calling someone derogatory names excludes people just as effectively as trying to harm them because they look “different.” It is even seen in a person’s words, actions, or attitudes, but it can also be invisible.

Teachers like Anedra Million show students that community leaders of any skin color help others and make a difference by taking a local approach. That encourages them to do the same, no matter their ancestors. Humanity is a beautiful rainbow, and we celebrate that fact each February.

[[1]] https://naacp.org/find-resources/history-explained/civil-rights-leaders/carter-g-woodson; [[2]]https://web.archive.org/web/20130214045303/http://www.asalh.org/blackhistorymonthorigins.html; [[3]]https://web.archive.org/web/20130119095146/http://www.ford.utexas.edu/library/speeches/760074.html; [[4]] https://www.journal-news.com/news/black-history-month-middletown-school-teaching-students-about-local-heroes/ZPNRBL3OHRAUJHPVWSZILU3HGY/; [[5]] https://asalh.org/black-history-themes/

 

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