The personal learning network for educators
It has been less than 200 years since it was legal to deny Blacks the right to learn how to read and write. It has been a little over 50 years since segregation in public schools was common and acceptable.
Centuries of unfair laws have not stopped the Black women nor will future waves of education reform steer us from our mission to educate our nation's youngest.
On this last day of Black Hisotry month and the beginning of Women's History month...it is time to stand up and thank the Black female educator. Here are a couple of reasons why:
1. She's been around since the beginning
Maybe it was the words of the young slave poet Phillis Wheatley:
'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land,
Taught my benighted soul to understand
That there's a God, that there's a Saviour too:
Once I redemption neither sought nor knew.
Some view our sable race with scornful eye,
"Their colour is a diabolic die."
Remember, Christians, Negro's, black as Cain,
May be refin'd, and join th' angelic train. -On Being Brought from Africa to America
Or was it Mary Ann Shedd Cary, the oldest of 13 children, who left the United States in 1850 when the Fugutive Act allowed freed blacks to be captured and brought back into slavery. In her time in Canada she opened the first school open to all races. She returned to the US to teach in Maryland and become the first Black lawyer.
Or possibly Mary Jane McLeod Bethune, an American educator and civil rights leader best known for starting an all-girls school for Blacks in Daytona Beach, Florida, that eventually became Bethune-Cookman University. She eventually became an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Bethune said, "I believe that the greatest hope for the development of my race lies in training our women thoroughly and practically."
In the short years after slavery these women and more dedicated their lives and at many times risked their lives for young Black students to not see themselves as animals-ugly and ignorant but as intellectuals with beautiful sable skin and the ability to be active contributors to society. They believed education and action could correct the injustices felt by Blacks.
2. She's been your mother, father, sister, brother, best friend and teacher at the SAME time
The Bethune school opened at 5:30am for classes in home economics and other industrial skills such as dressmaking, millinery, cooking, and other crafts that emphasized a life of self-sufficiency. Students' days ended at 9 pm with math, science and English.
From 1934-1969, the staff of the Caswell County Training School school in South Carolina went to the homes and churches of students.
The Black Panthers served breakfast to students in Oakland to make sure that hunger didn't impede their abilities to learn.
Today the Black female educator continues to educate the whole child and provide support outside the classroom.
3. She's been a consistent role model
Historically the matriarchs of the Black community has been the consistent member. Through wars, segregation and the ostrasization of the black male, the female has held generations of families together.
The teaching profession has been a viable option for the black female and they have continued to return to their neighborhoods to give back as community organizers, Sunday school teachers and tutors.
4. She's been a champion of high expectations
W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington may not have agreed on the course of Blacks but they both agreed that the future of Blacks did not end in the cotton fields of Arkansas.
Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and modern day K-12 schools led by Black female educators push to give access to students to take the courses to make them competitive in the workforce.
5. She's not leaving
When New York City was in a fiscal meltdown during the 1970s, Black educators were just gaining access into the teacher's union. This wave out lay-offs pushed many new teachers out of the classrooms. Now with a new wave of lay-offs being threatened the Black educator, veteran or novice, will continue to work. They fall on both sides of the tenure debate and although the numbers are decreasing in size, they will forever be part of the fabric of the school system.
To the Black Female Educator-
the drive to follow in the footsteps of your ancestors leads you through the doors of schools across the country every morning for 180+ days a year..For your time, passion and commitment to our children- thank you.
This post is also posted on the blog The Education Traveler. For the month of February these posts will focus on the Black Educator.