It is Black History Month! We all know what this means: Lots of tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and a host of other Black civil rights leaders, entertainers and athletes will be floating around our children at school this month. While we at GCP believe our sons and daughters and their classmates should know about these and other Black American leaders (and not just for this month), a month long celebration of Black History should be much broader, deeper and more meaningful.
So, GCP Parents, let’s add our own spin to Black History Month: Let’s take extra time this month to share OUR family histories with our sons and daughters. Talk with them about your parents and grandparents and what life was like for them. Pull out the old photo albums and walk them through your family tree. Have these discussions around dinner, or during drop-off, or at bedtime–whenever you’ve got some time and their attention. Tell them stories from your childhood as well; let them know how different it was for you growing up. Tell them about the political landscape of your childhood: who was President, who were the state and local officials, what important political events you remember as a child. Your children are sure to ask questions, and their questions will prompt more stories.
Here are some other suggestions to enrich your Black family history conversations:
Create a Family Tree Together: Ancestry.com can help you build a family tree. I just spent 10 minutes in the “Trees” section of their website, and with the insertion of a few details I found a census form that confirmed information about one of my grandfathers that I thought was just family folklore! The initial search is free, but if you want to do a deeper dive and gain access to their many resource materials there is a monthly or 6 months (discounted) fee.
Call Older Family Members for Stories: Let your relatives know your plan to call specifically to reminisce so they can be ready with their recollections. Encourage your children to ask them to describe all aspects of their lives: their schooling, their jobs, what they did for fun, the modes of transportation they used, their favorite foods, music, sports teams. As you get these details you can help your children put them into the context of Black American life at that time. For example, hearing that Great Uncle Sam was a porter on the railroad provides a great opportunity to dive with your kids into the world of the Pullman Porters. Details like these will make history come alive for your children. They will have a greater appreciation for the ordinary and extraordinary achievements of your family and Black people in general.
Explore Hidden Figures of History Together: Go beyond your immediate family’s history to discover some of Black America’s unsung heroes. This Oprah Magazine article on African American Historical Figures can get you started.
Most importantly, have fun with your family’s historical treasure hunt. And stay tuned for more Black History facts this month from GCP. We are on a mission to make sure children know more about our history!