At Whitfield, we are committed to teaching a diverse and inclusive curriculum that allows all students to see themselves reflected in the literature, art, history, and social movements discussed. A thoughtfully diverse curriculum also helps our students build and leverage their cultural competency. This involves learning about the histories of all people; examining traditions, practices, values, conflicts, and more. We take the opportunity during Black History Month to reflect on and celebrate the lives and accomplishments of black Americans. Black History Month is an opportunity to examine and strengthen our school’s commitment to incorporating black history and black voices into our curriculum year-round.
Below are a few examples of how students study black history in the context of the rest of World and American history and black authors in dialogue with literature produced by authors of a diversity of backgrounds.
This fall, students in 8th grade social studies studied the abolitionist movement and produced documentaries on the abolition of slavery. In the spring, students will analyze the Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century in great depth. And throughout the year, students participate in regular discussions on modern topics relating to race relations in the 21st century.
In 8th grade English, students recently studied three excerpts from Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave and wrote their own speeches advocating for the abolition of slavery from an 1860s perspective.
Ninth grade English students spent much of Trimester Two reading and discussing The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas along with a book of their choice selected from a collection of books that focus on contemporary experiences of black youth. In addition, students study the history of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Panther Party, discuss contemporary race relations, and explore structural racism. The unit also explores different literary forms, including narrative poetry and graphic novels.
During senior year, many students take either Human Rights and Genocide or Social Change & World Affairs. In the former, students investigate the experiences of diverse communities in different historical contexts including Congo, Namibia, Aboriginal Australia, Rwanda, Sudan, and First Nations Peoples (indigenous communities) in North and South America. Students focus on the history of cross-cultural interactions and the role of racial and social tensions that occasionally contribute to galvanizing human rights crises. In Social Change & World Affairs, students explore the role of race and ethnicity as identity categories that are culturally and socially constructed. Students learn about the historical experiences of African Americans from the colonial period to the present. Some themes and topics include: racial inequalities & hierarchies, the struggle for Civil Rights and full citizenship, institutionalized forms of racism, postwar redlining, restrictive covenants, racial segregation, the transition to integration, and the quest for social justice (in the context of labor, healthcare, education, politics, housing, etc.).
“Today, many people question if Black History Month should continue to be observed—after all, black history is world history and should not be relegated to just one month,” said Whitfield’s Director of Equity and Inclusion Dr. Anna Warbelow. “It is imperative that we continue to integrate black history into the curriculum and also take the opportunity during the month of February to further lift up and celebrate the lives and accomplishments of black Americans through special programing.”
This month, Whitfield students and faculty have planned a variety of activities in recognition of Black History Month. These activities include two lectures delivered by faculty member Dr. Miller Boyd, programming by our Black Student Union, and a curated display of books by black authors in our library.