February is Black History Month, a time set aside for us to remember the contributions Black Americans have been making throughout this country’s history. Unfortunately, I am amazed how frequently BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) contributions are overlooked in textbooks, and their importance goes unnoticed.
I suggest that, in each area of study, teachers should point out important Black contributions which may have been overlooked for a long time. Teachers in each subject area could highlight people of color who made major contributions to the field. There are so many examples that are not made visible that a teacher could present BIPOC Americans every day in February to emphasize their contributions and how little we know of them.
Music and athletics are easy; we see examples of them in our media almost every day.
You can find more than 28 examples to present.
But what about authors like James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jesmyn Ward, Octavia Butler, Maya Angelou, Colson Whitehead, Alice Walker, Ralph Ellison, Malcolm X, Langston Hughes, Oprah Winfrey, Isabel Wilkerson, Richard Wright, Terry McMillan, W. E. DuBois, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, Claudia Rankine, bell hooks, Angela Davis, Toni Cade Bambara, Ernest Gaines, Elaine Welteroth, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Gloria Naylor, and of course Martin Luther King, Jr. There!! That is one BIPOC contributor for every day in February in Language Arts. And I didn’t even include Michelle and Barack Obama.
How about science? Start with George Washington Carver, Percy Julian, John McWhorter, Alice Ball, Emmett Chappelle, Otis Boykin, Bettye Washington, J. Ernest Wilkins Jr., Joel Elias Spingarn, Lloyd Quarterman, Roger Arliner Young, Charles Henry Turner, Nobert Rillieux, Margaret Collins, Walter L. Hawkins, James A. Harris, Ronald McNair, Willie Hobbs Moore, Carolyn Parker, W.E.B. DuBois, Ivan Van Sertima, Beebe Steven Lynk , Joan Murrell Owens, Henry C. McBay, Elmer Imes, Moddie Taylor, Josephine S. Yates, and of course, Neil deGras Tyson. And of course, there are many, many more.
It is really easy to discover the amazing contributions of Black Americans who are often overlooked in our textbooks. While many Black students may know these American icons, white students may not be aware of the many contributions BIPOC have made to American culture and knowledge.
Another idea is just to ask your students to find a BIPOC contributor in your field of study, such as a BIPOC mathematician, artist, or historical figure, that they want to know more about.
Until the day that BIPOC contributions are routinely made part of our curriculum and textbooks, why not use Black History Month to highlight their value to our world? History is being made every day and it is up to all of us to make sure everyone gets recognized for their contributions.