What Black history educators wish you knew
What Black history educators think parents should know about Black history, what they wished kids knew, and what gets left out of your typical diversity curriculum.
The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs, I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery.
– Frederick Douglas (emphasis added)
I’ll never forget when I first read those words, “an expression of feeling.” I was a sophomore in college and had elected to take an African American Literature course. I had expected to learn about some great writers and read some beautiful texts.
But what I actually learned was how much gets left out of history. How much our society willfully ignores, discredits, and forgets.
Outschool is grateful to have some incredible educators share their knowledge and passion for Black history on our online classes for kids. So we asked them what parents should know about Black history, what they wished kids knew, and what gets left out of your typical diversity curriculum.
Here are their beautiful and thoughtful responses. Plus, some fantastic resources to help your kids explore Black history and learn about its inspirational leaders, both past and present.
Meet our featured Outschool Black history educators
We wish we could have interviewed all our wonderful educators, but we’re so grateful we got to connect with these phenomenal people who are so dedicated to their work. Please check out their profiles and classes – we promise your family won’t regret it!
Also, if you’re an educator, don’t miss this blog which shares advice on how educators can incorporate Black history and diverse perspectives into their classes!
Ms. Iman founded the Kind Academy organization on Outschool, and her core curriculum includes courses on anti-racism, DEIB, and social-emotional learning. She is passionate about including diverse Black perspectives in her classes and has authored several books on teaching Black history.
Check out her upcoming online classes for kids here.
Ms. Shiren has worked as an educator in some capacity for 20+ years, and she currently teaches Outschool classes on the African diaspora for kids ages seven and up. She also speaks several languages fluently and teaches language learning classes in French, Spanish, and English.
Check out Ms. Shiren's upcoming classes for kids.
Ms. Zhane loves teaching African-American and Asian-American history on Outschool to learners of all backgrounds. Her classes inspire learners to engage with different eras, events, and leaders from Black History that may not always be included in mainstream history lessons.
Sign up for Ms. Zhane's new classes.
Alycia Wright, M.Ed is an experienced licensed educator of over ten years. She enjoys teaching many subjects, especially history, and science. Alycia holds several teaching certifications and believes that every student can learn and be successful. Fun fact: sometimes, she even dresses up like Harriet Tubman.
Enroll your family in Alycia's classes here.
Mrs. Angela is an experienced teacher who believes that learning happens best through the arts and play. Your child's social/emotional development is the focus of her fun, interactive, and welcoming classes.
Sign your kids up for a Mrs. Angela class.
Black history is world history
Q. What do you wish parents knew about the importance of teaching Black history?
“I wish parents knew that Black history is world history, and unfortunately, it is not taught on an equal level in many cases.” - Miss Shiren
“I want parents to know that Black history should not be taught in a silo. It is truly American history. Every event or time frame that is studied should include a diverse perspective of how others experienced and or contributed to it.” - Alycia Wright
“I wish more parents knew that learning about Black history is not dangerous, and it does not make learners ashamed of who they are if done correctly. On the contrary, it allows learners to feel like they have the power to improve things for everyone. My learners always leave inspired!” - Ms. Iman
“Black history is a major part of American history. The contributions of people from the African diaspora are innumerable. Unfortunately, many of these contributions have been buried or attributed to others. Highlighting Black history gives us the opportunity to honor people who deserve it.” - Mrs. Angela
What isn’t being taught that should be?
Q. How is “diversity” curriculum typically flawed? What isn’t taught or celebrated that should be?
“Often diverse curriculum focus on the trauma and oppression of various groups. Although these are very real experiences, a curriculum should also inspire. Including the accomplishments of groups to all parts of society should be of high focus.” - Alycia Wright
“The main flaw of the ‘diversity’ curriculum is that it is filtered. Historians have only written about the part of history that benefits specific groups the most and not the entirety of the past. Our history books are not very inclusive or diverse. They say that history is written by the victor. A lot of the curriculum is one-sided.
"We need to teach learners the entire truth, even the most difficult and dark parts of history, which is usually watered-down. We should celebrate the true history of minority groups and their accomplishments.” - Ms. Zhane
“Many times curriculum highlighting diverse perspectives is obtained from the perspective of people who have colonized the groups meant to be revered, which can result in the erasure of the groups to be celebrated. The result can be perspectives that celebrate the undeserved victor while minimizing or altering the voice of the oppressed.” - Mrs. Angela
Why teach Black history?
Q. What inspires you to teach about diversity and Black history?
“I am inspired to teach about Black history because I would like to contribute to a greater understanding of African contributions to world history and modern culture that are known and understood, but too often downplayed or even ignored.” - Miss Shiren
“I am inspired knowing a future generation (especially those children of color) will grow up hearing these stories and seeing themselves, their culture, their contributions in a powerful and positive way. These stories will help instill self-pride, love for others, and push back against various race-based stereotypes that hurt us all.” - Alycia Wright
“I honestly just love opening my student's eyes to all the things we don't typically hear about. I didn't learn about a lot of the things I teach until I was in college, and I always wonder if I would have had more self-confidence growing up if I had known about the greatness of Black history.” - Ms. Iman
“I love teaching about Black history because I am very proud of my culture. As a child, I didn’t have many people who looked like me at my schools. I often lacked real-life representation as well. Teaching Black history gives me the opportunity to share my experience and the experience of my ancestors for children who might not get a first-hand perspective like this.” - Mrs. Angela
How do kids respond to your Black history classes?
Q. How has teaching Black history impacted your learners?
“Teaching Black history has impacted my learners by helping ‘heritage learners’ to see themselves in history and feel proud of their community's contributions, and for non-heritage learners, by giving them access to an aspect of world history, they may not have the opportunity to access elsewhere.” - Miss Shiren
“Students of color who learn decolonized Black history typically leave my class empowered and proud of their heritage (even the sad parts because they know it was not a fault of ours). White students generally leave knowing that they have power and a voice to enact change.” - Ms. Iman
“My learners leave class knowing about the heroes who have sacrificed their lives for the equality, equity, and freedom that we have today. Teaching Black history gives students the inspiration to strive to make the world a better place for all.” - Ms. Zhane
What’s the most important thing kids should know about Black history?
Q. If you could share one fact about Black history that you want learners to know about, what would it be?
“I want learners to know that although adequate funding and importance has not been devoted to uncovering and sharing Black history in earnest in the past few centuries, for unfortunate reasons, it does not mean that that history does not exist or is any way less in importance. We should be diligent in uncovering, learning about, and sharing it when we can.” - Miss Shiren
“I would definitely want to teach about Mansa Musa: King of Mali, the richest man in history. But I also love to discuss how generous he was. I like to weave this in because not only does it allow my learners to strive for success, it also teaches them the value of kindness.” - Ms. Iman
“I will use a quote from the ‘Father of Black History’ Carter G Woodson; ‘Those who have no record of what their ancestors have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.’ - Ms. Zhane
“One thing that I noticed when I began teaching these classes is that almost every person that we highlight had to be an activist and overcome adversity. That made me proud, but it hurt me so much too. To think that so many of our influential people didn’t only have the task of being great at what they did.
"But they also had to overcome immense prejudice, which resulted in people actively trying to hold them back while they pushed boundaries, set goals, and made history. For me, it’s important for learners to see what all of these people were able to achieve even when others questioned their worth and ability.” - Mrs. Angela
Which Black leaders inspire you most?
Q. Some incredible icons have paved the way for diversity, hope, and equality. MLK Jr., Rosa Parks, Ida B Wells, Katherine Johnson, etc. Is there someone that has helped inspire the path in your life?
“My father, who was the founder of an African-Canadian news magazine and African-Canadian Achievement Awards Ceremony, inspired me and provided me guidance into my history as a child. I want to pass that on to others.” - Miss Shiren
“Harriet Tubman, because of her never-ending and lifelong battle for civil rights, is my favorite person from history. My next Shero is Josephine Baker. I really love how outspoken she was and how she lived in a castle and adopted 12 children from all over the world. I just can't get over how she also helped France during World War II as a spy against Hitler. She is such a rockstar in my book!” - Ms. Iman
“Although I have many, I would say that Frederick Douglass is definitely on the top of my list. He has inspired me to know that nothing is impossible. Educating others is one of the best things that we can do as a society, and I learned that from the great Fredrick Douglass.” - Ms. Zhane
“Dr. Mae C Jemison has inspired me due to her excellence in various fields. In addition to being a teacher, I am also an actress and performer. When I was young, my grandmother told me that I didn’t have to choose one thing in life to focus on. Grandma reminded me that we are given many talents, and there is no need to just cultivate one.
"When I heard that Dr. Jemison was a trained dancer, doctor, and then an astronaut, I was so encouraged and proud. Seeing people like her and Astronaut Leland Melvin, who was an athlete and astronaut, reminded me of what my grandma said.” - Mrs. Angela
What do you love about teaching on Outschool?
Q. What do you love most about teaching Black history on Outschool?
“I love providing access to lesser-known knowledge about Black history on a platform that celebrates unique learning experiences and provides an outlet for exploring topics that, unfortunately, are not always available as options in schools." - Miss Shiren
"I have to say that I love the freedom to teach diverse perspectives, but really it is always about the kids. The kids come and teach me so much. I come with lesson plans and my excitement to share, but they really bring life to the curriculum and so much passion to learn this stuff. It makes what I do so easy and worth it!” - Ms. Iman
“I love the fact that with Outschool, I can reach so many different students from all over the world. I love teaching Black history to students of all cultural backgrounds. Outschool gives me that opportunity as an educator. Growing up, Black history wasn't as accessible to me and other students. Now, as a teacher, I get to teach the next generations about Black history and its importance.” - Ms. Zhane
“I love to teach Black history on Outschool because I have the freedom to feature icons and inspirational people that have meaning to me. I am, of course, inspired and proud of the stories of MLK Jr., Rosa Parks, and well-known names like that. But there are many more people to highlight and celebrate. I also love giving learners the chance to find people that inspire and speak to them.” - Mrs. Angela
Black history resources
Online black history courses: help your kids dig deeper into Black history with these amazing online classes.
New York Public Library has a great list of suggested readings and books in honor of Black History Month.
Join our Outschool Parent Facebook group to sign up for insightful events and connect with other Outschool families.
National Museum of African American History and Culture - you’ll find valuable articles, a resource hub, and special events for kids.
Thank you to all our incredible Outschool Educators. We are deeply grateful for your generosity, perspective, and enthusiasm. Thank you for your dedication and for all the ways you continually challenge and inspire learners everywhere.
[Editor's note: this blog was originally published on 01/28/22 and was updated on 03/21/23.]