Today’s New York Times features an article, found here, which details how little today’s schools teach about the history of the Civil Rights movement and how little today’s students know about basic civil rights history. Julian Bond, the former civil rights activist who began teaching the history of the civil rights movement twenty years ago, speaks of having students who confused segregationist Gov. George Wallace with “60 Minutes” journalist Mike Wallace. While we can decry the lack of inclusion of Civil Rights history in our children’s schools, this is no different than when we were schoolchildren and there was scant, if any, mention of African American leaders such as W.E.B. DuBois, Marcus Garvey, A. Phillip Randolph or even Frederick Douglass in our classrooms. It was incumbent upon our parents then, and it is incumbent on us as parents now, to make sure that Black children understand the history of African American struggle and achievement that allows them to live in a country where their equality is rooted in the law.

Of course, some of us had the advantage of growing up during the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, so we could see the battles unfolding around us on the evening news. We could see the value in learning Black history to understand how those movements fit in the continuum of the struggle of Black people for full citizenship. Our parents made us aware of the responsibility we had as the first generation able to take full advantage of entrance into elite schools and mainstream professions and companies. The reality is that two generations later, many of our children don’t feel that sense of urgency. We’ve all had conversations with friends bemoaning the unintended consequences of the hard won gains of the civil rights movement and the comfortable, integrated middle and upper middle class lifestyles it has made possible– our children believe they have the freedom to be mediocre.

The last three years of the Obama administration have shown us that the backlash against the Black equality his presidency represents is a real threat for all Black Americans. Considering the efforts by several Republican state legislatures to restrict our access to the ballot box and the persistently higher unemployment rates among Black people pushing many middle class people into poverty, our children can ill afford to skate by academically or bask in comfortable ignorance of our history. As the axiom says, “Those who are ignorant of history are doomed to repeat it.”

GCP would like to know, “How are you making sure that your children know the history of the Civil Rights movement?” We’d love to share good ideas about how to make our history come alive for our children.