Tracey McKee – February 10, 2022
I love history. I love to dive into history books, and when I have time for leisurely reading, it’s historical fiction for me. When opportunity presents itself, I love to travel to places on the map where you can walk the streets and see history, even touch it — restored buildings, cobblestone paths, ruins, graveyards, and so on. I try to picture in my mind the people who walked those paths, who worked in those buildings, who lived in a time altogether different than mine. Learning about the past and seeing evidence of time’s passage makes me feel connected to something greater than myself.
When I participated in the What Lies Between Us workshop a few years ago, one of the biggest things I learned was I had a lot to learn. Growing up, I was taught an American history that omitted, glossed over, or misrepresented the whole truth of slavery and the struggle Black people have endured to be seen and treated equally. Here I was, a lover of history, and sadly, I was so unaware of much of my own country’s. I began to think about that a lot. How many of us are so very naive when it comes to the ugly truths of slavery and to the lasting effects it has had on our nation?
I read an article in The Washington Post from 2019 exploring this breakdown in our education. The article talked with Tim McClimon, a teacher in rural northern Iowa, who is teaching a more authentic account of slavery and its consequences that plague us today. Something he said to his students resonated with me:
Think about this, for 246 years, slavery was legal in America. It wasn’t made illegal until 154 years ago. So, what does that mean? That means slavery has been a part of America much longer than it hasn’t been a part of America.
And, when I thought about that, the enormity of it, I was even more dismayed that we have failed to educate our citizens on the WHOLE of our country’s history. How can we begin to build bridges to overcome racial divisions if so many of us lack knowledge about slavery and its consequences? And, it isn’t just slavery that we need to teach. We need to teach an unabridged account of the Black experience, including Black Codes, lynchings, Jim Crow, and more. Without it, we are ill-equipped to have real and meaningful conversations about racism. Lack of education leads to a lack of awareness, leading to a lack of concern and, ultimately, a lack of action to address racial inequality. Education can be a pivotal step in bringing racism to its knees.
If you’d like to join me in learning history of the Black experience in America , here are some suggestions:
“Teaching America’s Truth,” Hein, Joe. The Washington Post, August, 28,2019.