Teachers focus in on Black history during February

Sydney Hamilton, Editor-in-Chief

February, African American History Month, is the prime time for teachers, specifically History teachers, to teach their students about African American history. Some teachers incorporate African American history into their lessons all throughout the year while some may only briefly talk about it in February.

At Omaha North, there is semester long African American History class. Some of the topics covered include the slave trade to America, the history of Africa, culture, and Black Lives Matter.

As well as teaching African American History, Robert Toth also teaches Modern World History and Law and Juvenile Justice. He plans to spend the whole month of February focusing on oppressive laws as well as laws that were passed to overturn the previous ones. He thinks it is very important to focus on African American history because “it is a very interesting thing especially with the school that we’re in.”

In his African American History class, Toth plans to specifically talk about civil rights, influential individuals, and equality. Since he knows how important it is for students to understand their culture, he makes sure to teach African American history in his other two classes.

“For my Law and Juvenile Justice class we are going to talk about Jim Crow Laws and how those basically changed the whole entire south…we talk about incarceration rates for African Americans…we talk about profiling…and for my Modern World History class we talk about the history of slavery, we talk about civil rights and activists throughout the whole entire world,” Toth said.

Colleen Durante, Academic and Honors U.S. History teacher at North also notices how important it is for students to learn about African American history.

“When students find themselves reflected in the content they are more likely to engage in the lesson,” Durante said.

Durante and Toth are both doing projects in their classes to really focus on African American history. Durante is having her students do projects for National History day and is focusing her curriculum on things related to civil rights because that unit lines up with African American History Month.

Toth is having his students write a biography about any Black activist that they want. These activists range from Malcom X to Jimi Hendrix to people affiliated with the Black Panther Party to so many others who “you don’t really hear about that basically lead African American history movements.”

Not only do teachers try to teach about African American History Month in high school, but they also try to focus on it in middle and elementary school. Teachers at King Science and Technology Magnet Middle and Lothrop Magnet Elementary, the pathways schools to North High, also recognize the importance of students learning about African American history.

Nicholas Webster, 8th grade U.S. History and Investigative Histories teacher at King, thinks it is very important for his students to learn things from the African American perspective.

“I am very proud to be Black, so even while I am teaching U.S. History, it is important to me to sort of teach it from a Black perspective, or to at least recognize a Black perspective,” Webster said.

Webster is going to be focusing on similar subjects as Toth and Durante. For example, he will be teaching his Investigating Histories students about the effect of the civil rights movement and “how man of the modern day movements derive from different aspects of the 20th Century’s Civil Rights movement.”

In his U.S. History class he will be teaching a Civil War unit which will also focus on the oppression of Black people. He plans to spend the entire month of February on African American history in his Investigating Histories class and throw in as much as he can in his Civil War unit for U.S. history.

As for Lothrop, students will be putting on a program outside of the classroom to celebrate African American history. North and King are also going to have similar programs. In the past, these programs have included original songs by students, dancing, poetry, skits, videos, and much more.

All three of these teachers recognize how important it is for students to learn about African American history and try their best to incorporate it into their curriculum for their students.