Friday, January 30, 2015

Published 4:45 AM by with 0 comment

Don't Sugarcoat Black History

Don't Sugarcoat Black History (Harriet Tubman & Underground Railroad) | Yes, We Rise

Are we doing a disservice to ourselves and our children by not telling the full stories of slavery? 

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I was in the midst of teaching my African American History class and we were discussing Harriet Tubman and her importance to the abolitionist movement, Underground Railroad and the Civil War. A student stated that she knew that she carried a pistol she didn't know that she had threatened slaves that wanted to turn back with it, she thought it was just for protection. This exchange made me think, how are our children taught? And by whom?

We tend to want to sugarcoat events that happen to be less than savory to "spare" our children from the truth. Our child tend to be more resilient and capable than we give them credit for.

I truly believe that this does our children a disservice. We have been reminded continuously that things may have changed but there is a way to go. What we haven't done, in my opinion, is equip our children with an in-depth understanding of the "triumphs despite it all." We are so obsessed with the historical slights that we have endured, that we fail to pay attention to the fact out forebears survived, even thrived despite it all. They used their collective ingenuity, to make a culture and support system to form a system that was designed to prevent this from happening.

Don't Sugarcoat Black History (Harriet Tubman and family) | Yes, We Rise
Tubman in 1887 (far left), with her husband Davis (seated, with cane), their adopted daughter Gertie (beside Tubman), Lee Cheney, John "Pop" Alexander, Walter Green, Blind "Aunty" Sarah Parker, and great-niece, Dora Stewart at Tubman's home in Auburn, New York

The fact that communities continued to thrive and exist in the 1960’s says something. There seems to have been a disconnect in many of our homes. We have allowed our stories to be told without the proper context. We don’t see ourselves in it, or if we do it isn’t in a positive light.

We know that we were slaves, but how often are we told about the importance of the family in slave culture? Are we telling our children that slaves would travel miles to see members of their families usually under the threat of severe punishment if they were caught? Are we telling our children about the different levels of resistance that were used by the slaves to protest the barbaric nature of slavery? How many of us are knowledgeable about these facets of our past? Are we willing to take the time needed to make sure that these links to our past aren’t lost?

This is too important to be blown away down then the forgotten halls of history.

Remember that children model the behavior that they see, and while personal pride is great, the pride that comes with knowledge of self is very important. It allows you to have something to fall back upon when you become world weary. When you have a solid grasp of your past it is like spiritual food. You know that you can survive what is thrown at you because you come from a hearty stock of people. You are, in essence, given a hand up by those who were unable to achieve what most of us have. Some might see this as a weight. You should see this as wings... to give you the power to continue.

For further information, please review the following:

Read: Freedom Story's Essays, How Slavery Affected African American Families
Read: Freedom Story's Essays, Slave Resistance
Read: Birthing a Slave: Reproduction and Inhumanity during America’s Slavery Era
Book sample: The African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation

** Dr. Headley White ** 

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This blog will earn a commission if you make a purchase using these links. 


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