Why Study Black History Month?
By: Leah Tempelberg
Black History Month honors the contributions of African Americans to U.S. History. The month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Why should we learn about it? When enslaved Africans were brought to America they were stripped of their language, names, religion and way of life. Each new generation of slaves was even more separated from the knowledge that was handed down through oral traditions. we should learn about black history month to teach us to respect and appreciate our current society, regardless of race. When students are not educated about the many contributions that African Americans have made to society in the United States, they are taught not to respect and appreciate the African Americans currently living here.
By teaching an underrepresented group in history, we are teaching our kids and ourselves that we are not different, and that African Americans walked, talked, and contributed to society just like any other person. As Jews, we can understand the adversity that the black community faced. Throughout history, both groups were enslaved, stripped of their identities, and experienced extreme forms of racism. By learning about the suffering of another group, we learn that as Jews we weren’t the only ones to experience this. It will help us look outside of our bubble to learn that we are not as different as we thought.
I think there should be more than black history month, in fact we need to learn about all races and all cultures while learning history. Why should we only commemorate Black History on this day or during this month? We must have an inclusive history and be able to learn about world history while learning about all the races not just Americans.
By: Ahuva Simpser
One of the most famous nineteenth-century black American women, Sojourner Truth, originally born Isabella Baumfree, was a former slave born in 1797 in Ulster County, New York. At the age of nine, she was separated from her family when she was bought by the man John Neely, in 1806. After this, she was bought and sold two more times. During that time she married another slave named Thomas and had five children. Like other slaves, Truth felt the hardships of being bought and sold and was brutally beaten and mistreated by her owners. In 1827, Truth walked to freedom when her master refused to free her after the New York Anti-Slavery Law of 1827 was passed which stated that any slave born before July 4, 1799 would be freed. In 1828, she moved to New York and decided to become a traveling preacher to speak out against injustice. This led her to change her name to Sojourner Truth later in 1843. In 1850, her autobiography The Narrative of Sojourner Truth was published which brought her national recognition. During her time as a preacher and traveling lecturer, Truth became involved with the antislavery movement, and by the 1850s she was also involved in the women’s rights movement. She spoke for the abolition of slavery, women’s rights, prison reform and the end of capital punishment. She delivered what is now considered one of the most famous abolitionist and women’s rights speeches in American history called “Ain’t I A Woman?”. In her speech, she challenged the racial and gender stereotypes of the time. She believed that women’s rights were just as important as the rights of a formerly enslaved man and that both topics should be addressed simultaneously. As a result, Sojourner became one of the most influential black women to speak out against racial and gender inequality. In 1966, Truth moved to Battle Creek, Michigan. After the Civil War started, Truth encouraged young men to join the Union cause and helped organize supplies for black troops. Because of her efforts, Truth was invited to the White House and became involved with the Freedmen’s Bureau, a government organization started in 1856 to help freed slaves obtain land, jobs, fair treatment, and education. When Truth heard that in Washington D.C., ex-slaves who had fled there seeking safety and jobs
had no place to live and barely any food to eat, she worked tirelessly at Freedman Village and for the Freedmen’s Bureau trying to improve their living conditions. She tried to persuade the government to pay for their transportation costs to their new homes in addition to giving them new land, by carrying around petitions with her trying to get people to sign but Congress never took action.
Sojourner Truth died on November 26, 1883. Her tombstone gave her the age 105, although she really was 86. Sojourner Truth was a charismatic, almost six foot tall woman whose voice could calm even the most rowdy crowds. She was not afraid to speak for what she believed in and would stand up to anyone who challenged her beliefs. She successfully brought three lawsuits to court and won them during her lifetime which was especially rare for a woman of that time but also for an illiterate ex-slave. Sojourner Truth was a former slave who believed that all people should be equal, no matter their color or gender, and she stood up for her beliefs when few would stand up for her.
By: Sarah Aaronson
Mae C. Jemison was awarded the National Achievement scholarship to Stanford college at the early age of 16. The National Achievement Scholarship Program was created to “increase educational opportunities for academically accomplished Black American students and encourage colleges to broaden their recruiting efforts. The program also strove to encourage academic success among Black Americans of all ages by creating visible role models and providing a goal toward which younger students could work.” Jemison received her M.D. in 1981 from Cornell, and went on to intern at Los Angeles County/University of Southern California Medical Center and later worked as a general practitioner. She volunteered for the Peace Corps. in 1985, she decided that she needed a career change. She was going to pursue her newfound dream of spaceflight. She reapplied in 1987 and was “one of the 15 candidates chosen from a field of about 2,000.” On June 4, 1987, she became the first African-American woman to be admitted into NASA’s astronaut training program. On September 12, 1992, Jemison finally flew into space aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, becoming the first African-American woman in space. After her one and only space mission, she retired from space flight for reasons unknown. Only two other black women traveled into space after Jemison. Jemison’s dreams became a reality because she persevered. We can learn a lot from her. Not only did she pursue her dreams, she achieved them. She never gave up. She was not afraid of adversity, hate, or “racial standards”. I chose Mae Jemison because, as a child, I was raised on space travel and Nasa, but the more I learned about her the more I realized that her tenacity and determination to reach her goals is what I really valued. One day, I want to be able to look back and say that I was able to accomplish all my goals and dreams, just like she did.
Coretta Scott King
By: Rony Gir
Coretta Scott King is one of the most prominent role models for every man and woman around the world. Surrounded by a supportive family, and education, the two things that sparked King’s interest were social justice and peace. She married Martin Luther King Junior and helped as a prime contributor in the American Civil Rights Movement. She was devoted to the highest values of human dignity and strived for social change. King traveled the world speaking to many people, hoping this would help prove that people that may seem different from them are just as human.
Born on April 27, 1927 in Heiberger, Alabama, Coretta Scott King grew up on her parents’ farm. She was raised during the era of segregation, yet she graduated valedictorian from Lincoln High School. Later, King went to Antioch- a college in Yellow Springs, Ohio- and earned her B.A in music and education. Then, she went to Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music and received a degree in voice and violin. While in Boston, she met her husband Martin Luther King Jr. in 1952. Dr. King worked on his career, while she spent a lot of her time raising their four kids. Nevertheless, she was able to balance being a mother and still doing Movement work, such as speaking to colleges and different civil and peace groups.
King preformed a sequence of Freedom Concerts- combining poetry and writing- as a fundraiser. In 1958, Dr. and Mrs. King went to Mexico for their honeymoon, where they experienced the jurassic difference between extreme wealth and extreme poverty. In 1964, she traveled with her husband to Oslo, Norway, where he was awarded the nobel peace prize. Even after all the work that her husband has done, King still went out in public and spoke on behalf of those who were left unheard.
By: Shaina Knobel
Thurgood Marshall was an American lawyer that eventually worked his way up to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1967. Marshall was the first African American to hold this title. He served in this position for 24 years. He was an instrumental Civil Rights activist.
Thurgood Marshall was born July 2, 1908 in Baltimore, MD. His dream was to go to the University of Maryland. The only problem was that the University of Maryland didn’t accept black people into their university. Instead he went to Howard University, and graduated in 1934. He began a private practice of law in 1935 back in his hometown Baltimore, MD. Marshall became involved with an organization called the The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) it is a civil rights organization in the United States, formed in 1909. He then became the NAACP’s Chief Counsel which means he was their go to lawyer. Inside of the NAACP Marshall began NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund otherwise known as the (LDF) and eventually moved onto be the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in 1967.
Thurgood Marshall argued 32 civil rights cases within the Supreme Court and won 29. One of Marshall’s benchmark cases was when he had the chance to challenge separate but equal (which means: races separated but offering equal opportunities to all races) with the Brown V. Board of Education case in 1954 which ended segregation in public schools.
Marshall resigned from the Supreme Court in October 1991. When people asked why he was retiring he responded with quote “Because I’m old!” end quote. Two years later Marshall passed away at the age of 84. What made Thurgood Marshall such a phenomenal leader is that he had unconditional empathy for people. He dedicated his life to using the law to help those people. He put his life in danger for the things that he was passionate about and changed our legal system to help create an equal atmosphere for black people and other minorities.