- Pierre Van Cortlandt Middle School
Black History Month
Black History Month Serves as Opportunity for Education and Celebration of Black American Culture
Here in the Croton-Harmon schools, we believe it is important to specifically and with intention celebrate Black History Month. Through curriculum, school clubs, and communications from the administration, our students are learning about and honoring historical and modern-day scholars, activists, musicians, scientists, mathematicians, leaders, and more.
The origin of Black History Month is Negro History Week, created in the United States in February, 1926. The event celebrated the birthdays of both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Fifty years later, the celebration was expanded to a month and coincided with the nation's bicentennial. President Ford urged Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”
At CHHS, students are hearing quotes from Black writers and activists during morning announcements, including Nelson Mandela, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. Students are asked to “take a moment to listen, read and reflect on the significance.” In AP English, Ms. Schoenleber recently led a discussion about a Letter from Birmingham Jail while the STAR Club will show and discuss the documentary "Black Power Mix-Tape.”
Principal Plotkin is sharing quotes from and information about notable black people with PVC students in his Wise Words Wednesday videos. This past week Mr. Plotkin discussed a quote from Rosa Parks, “You must never be fearful about what you are doing when it is right.” He reminded students that Ms. Parks “lived this (quote) out in real life at a critical time in our history” and called Ms. Parks “an upstander.”
Among the various ways that CET students are learning about black history is in music class. Mrs. Horton is introducing a different black composer or musician each week, sharing both their music and how they have impacted society. To date, they’ve learned about Aretha Franklin and ragtime artist Scott Joplin, the King of Ragtime. When kindergarten students were asked what they recalled about last’s weeks lesson on Aretha Franklin, a student named Hudson quickly responded “she’s the queen of soul!” Students also learned that Aretha Franklin was the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and that she performed at three different presidential inaugurations. Students then discussed Scott Joplin, learned that his parents had been slaves and then ragtime was the precursor to jazz and rock and roll. They even got up to dance to his biggest hit, Maple Leaf Rag.
“As part of our work to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in our schools, we are taking a close look at how to enhance or modify the curriculum to ensure that we are teaching about all of the diverse people and cultures that have influenced American history,” said Assistant Superintendent John Griffiths. “At the same time, we believe that it is crucial to focus this month on discussing and celebrating Black history and those throughout the Black community who have impacted our culture, past and present.”
Please look for additional posts on Black History Month throughout February.