“You ain’t teachin diss right,” said the African American woman after one of my lectures. What she was referring to was an early lecture in a History course set to span an entire college semester.
I had just presented colonial Virginia and the founding of Jamestown (1607), the first permanent English settlement. Now, as readers of this present book will know, the enslavement of blacks was not foreordained in North America. Instead, the practice became law only in the late 17th century.
Before that, whites and blacks tended to work together. The purpose of slavery was partly to break up this possible interracial coalition. Understanding this point is key to American race relations.
Yet, in most schools and in the popular media, speakers find it is easier to just start from the fact that blacks and whites generally do not get along and that a few whites, so-called liberals, are the good ones. Black people should vote for these good whites, support their political agendas, and generally be excited when one of them shows up at the church on Sunday to dance the Dougie in the aisles. Ok, I am being a bit mean, but you all know one presidential candidate who did just that!
“White people brought us here to pick cotton,” and “you ain’t even said nothin bout that, so how you gon teach us?”
I then informed her that the cotton kingdom was a 19th century phenomenon and she would have to wait a few hundred years! This amounted to a few more weeks of class.
See, that is the problem with teaching African American History. There is too much use of this history for political purposes. Though television pundits emphasize the horrible experiences of the race, which we should, they do it ahistorically. The narrative becomes one big jumble in student minds.
Oh, many can rattle off a few names of so-called black leaders who were the first to do this, the first to attend that school, etc. However, they have no chronology in mind.
Harriet Tubman was Martin Luther King`s prom date as far as most know. He had not met Coretta yet because she was from up North. Yes, I put this on an exam and quite a few students chose it as the answer.
The effect of this blurring of African American History is that real racists can manipulate the population. If you believe that white people had the intent and power to bring you over and enslave you from day one, then you will see your future as pre-ordained. Why even try? And that is exactly what the racists want black students to think.
My Department Head asked me if I could just talk a little about cotton plantations in the next lecture. Hell no! Would you skip 200 years to mollify a confused student? Nope, he said. He also could have added that he was white and thus no student would make such an unreasonable request of him. The assumption being he knows what he is doing.
10 Keys to African American History is a book written by an historian who has taught in major colleges and published in top academic journals. He believes campus administrators and local school board leaders obstruct the teaching of black history to such a degree that most students graduate with no real understanding about race.
This book takes the ten most important concepts in African American History and explains them for a general audience. Knowledge of self can save your life.