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Why Spring 2021 students enrolled in my Early African American History Class

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

This semester, I am teaching an accelerated history course (7-weeks) in Early African American History; two accelerated history courses (7-weeks) in African American History since 1865; and one standard (15-week) course in U.S. History.

Here is the first assignment I gave the students in my Early African American History course, including their responses:

For our first assignment of the course, I want you to read, "Black History Is American History: Teaching African American History in the Twenty-First Century," by Dr. Allison Dorsey.

In the article, Dr. Dorsey relays an interesting story about a group of women that she overheard calling African American history “hidden.” Do you agree or disagree with these women? Why?

Also, why was it important for you to enroll in a course in Early African American History?

[This semester I have also started coupling the Dorsey reading with a debrief of Dr. Deborah Gray White's lecture on the history behind her first book project, Ar'n't I a Woman?: Female Slaves in the Plantation South. --08/25/2022]

Below is a sample of their responses.

Student A:

"I agree with those women because, I do believe we do not know all facts about what happened hundreds of years ago, and I also believe that may be White America wants to hidden because African Americans are largely the descendants of enslaved people who were brought from their American homeland by force to work in the New World.

Their rights were severely limited, and they were long denied a rightful share in the economic, social, and political progress of the United States. Because we were denied those things, I am sure that some facts are still hidden when it comes to African American history. I enrolled in this course so that I can learn more about the history of African American history is that I am African American. I want to know more about our background."

Student B: "I feel that the failure to educate students on slavery has an overall negative effect because students grow up not knowing the physical and psychological cruelty they endured and much more. That is why I felt that I needed to enroll in a course in Early African American History to gain more knowledge on the things that were never taught in American history classes. "

Student C: "I agree with the women that African American history is hidden. Although based on the traditional definition of the word hidden, "being out of sight or not readily apparent: concealed", African American history is not hidden, as it can be found in plain sight. However, it is concealed to a strong extent, as only those who seek to find African American history will be able to find it. Therefore African American history is hidden in plain sight (You have to want to find it to find it, but it is not too difficult to find)."

It is important to enroll in a course in early African American history for many reasons, however the most prevalent of which is the importance of learning the Social, political, economic, and cultural history of the people who would eventually become African Americans, the people who were directly responsible for creating the nation’s early wealth."

Student D: "When I was in College the first time, I was a history major. After a long hiatus from my schooling, I decided to go back to school to utilize what I have learned while raising my kids and dealing with their educational and mental health needs. I am now an Elementary Ed/Special Ed major. I wanted to take this class because this is where a gap in my education exists. I have been able to study about modern Civil Rights and discuss racial injustice as well as the idea of whiteness and otherness with friends my age. I can read and study on my own many of the ongoing issues since Jim Crow and Reconstruction, however I knew that I was missing the base of the story. I want to understand how and why the racial structure in our country came to be, so that I can more fully understand what my students are up against."

Student D: "I have always had an interest in African American history. As child I would go out of my way to find a different African American person to do my report on. I was tired of always using Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman or W.E.B Dubois. I wanted to learn about someone else. So, although this class is part of what I need to move forward in my education journey, I felt I had to take this course whether it was needed or not."

Student E: "The refusal by educational systems to provide students with an in-depth look into the historical information of African American history, but instead choosing to highlight events that would give the façade of America as a country that believes in equality and justice for all, is a disservice to all ethnicities and races. As Dorsey states, most of the education that is provided about African American History has been a 'historiographical overview' rather than based on 'event history', where the focus surrounds 'who, what, when, where, and why' (1173)."

Student F: "I need to learn African American history because I am a citizen."

Student G: "I am guilty of thinking I know black history, it wasn’t until I started dating my now fiancé, he is Haitian and African American. He exposed me to his African American experience, being a young boy going to private school with majority of his classmates being white. He saw himself differently and took it upon himself to learn more about where “his” people came from. He has schooled me in every way about how I do not know my history, and I don’t. So this is me, taking it upon myself to learn more."

Student H: "I think that it's really important for me to enroll in this course because of my lack of knowledge and how that affects my understanding of people and systems now. I find it really important that I understand the truth behind America, especially the hard truths of slavery, the reality of what Africans that became African Americans faced."

Student I: "I think the truth is African American History has always been around us, just like how Dorsey knew where to find the information [that the women learned about] in the movie; we have to do a bit more searching for it than we do for American history. Enrolling in Early African American History is important because I believe it is a birthright to know one's ancestral history. Learning about your roots can help you navigate through your current journey."

Student J: "After reading Professor Dorsey’s article, it emphasized something I’ve known for some time…the African American History I learned was more like a footnote to the rest of the history I was exposed to. Yes, throughout those years we touched on Crispus Attucks, Frederick Douglas, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, etc. I thought I knew what I needed to know so imagine my embarrassment when as a high school junior I didn’t understand the historical significance when Thurgood Marshall passed away."

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