Black history on everyday learning, ‘like a veil or a curtain drawn back’


February was designated in 1970 as Black History Month, but black residents of Jacksonville say black history is more than a month long, longer than famous people and the civil rights movement.

Instead, they say, it’s about acknowledging ordinary people and teaching all aspects of abundant history.

“Black history…it’s all year round,” said Reverend Johnny Lee Nichols of Mount Emory Baptist Church. “I think it’s relevant for our young people going forward.”

Along with wanting elements of black culture to be recognized year-round, Nichols believes there’s still a lot of black history that has yet to be taught in schools. He would like that to change.

“White people should know more about black people and black people should know more about black people,” Nichols said.

Black history is no longer just an American effort, said Trevelyn Florence Thomas of Florence Family Ministries, explaining that she has seen it grow over the years and expand across the United States.

“I’ve seen a rise in awareness across our country and the world,” Thomas said.

Born and raised in west-central Illinois and moved to earn a master’s degree in African-American studies before returning in 2007, Thomas said she’s seen black history increasingly recognized in places where she had lived.

“You can pick up a book and see how black people were involved” in an event or an invention, she said. “It’s like a veil or a curtain that is pulled back.”

Loving her Jacksonville community, going back years ago was a relief, she said.

“The community itself is embracing Black History Month,” she said. “I felt it was my duty to come back.”

The death last year of George Floyd sparked many Black Lives Matter activities. For Thomas, the spotlight was on black history long before Floyd died.

“A lot of it was highlighted before Mr. Floyd died, but (the BLM movement) brought (black history) to the fore,” she said. “There was definitely an adjustment.”

Jimmie Burries, a pastor at the House of Worship Church of God in Christ, grew up in Chicago and, as a student, had semester-long courses in black history available to him. For his children, who attended schools in Jacksonville School District 117, it was a different story, he said.

“Here in Jacksonville, we can do more education about the importance of history, especially black history,” Burries said. “I taught my kids everything they knew about black history.”

Burries thinks the schools are simply teaching the basics of black history while failing to teach how black people helped shape America and remain an active part of the country’s history, not just an early chapter in it. -this.

“They do enough to get by, but what about black inventors? Not just slavery, but contributions,” he said. “Black people helped build America, we’re all in this together.”


Comments are closed.