At the Hawbridge School, the history of Black Americans is recognized throughout the school year. During the month of February, teachers pay special attention to and celebrate the contributions of Black writers, scientists, artists, and activists. Here are some of the activities in which our community has been involved.
Mr. Underwood is performing “This Little Light of Mine” for his 4th graders and Ms. Ballard’s 1st graders. They will discuss the connection of this song with the Underground Railroad.
In Mr. Farmer’s 10th grade English class, students are reading short stories by Randall Kenan, as well as this article by Kenan on Michael Twitty, and they’re now writing essays about one of his stories. Our 3rd-5th grade EC reading group is reading Running for Freedom with Ms. Devonport. This story centers the experience of a young enslaved boy who finds his way to freedom through the Underground Railroad.
Mr. Howes has been working with his Upper School social studies classes to analyze Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”, with a special focus on when and how actions fighting injustice should be carried out. After reviewing the “Great Migration,” the real estate practice of redlining in major cities, they will discuss the concept of reparations in US History.
Black scientists have also been fascinating for our students to focus on. Ms. Walls has been sifting through informational texts about Henrietta Lacks and Onesimus. Ms. Garner’s 6th graders are researching famous inventors for their writing prompt this quarter.
Ms. Pershing’s chemistry and physical science classes are focusing on the contributions of significant Black and/or African American scientists both from times past and currently working in their field.
Many Lower School teachers are celebrating Black excellence by learning the stories of various influential and inspiring Black leaders. Ms. Buckmaster’s class read a book about Katherine Johnson, the human computer who used math to guide Apollo 13 back to earth safely. They have also listened to the music of Trombone Shorty and were surprised to find out how young he was when he first started playing music. This same group of 3rd graders was intrigued to learn that Neil deGrasson Tyson first discovered his love of space at the age of 9–the same age they are now!
Ms. Wilder’s class has been researching influential African Americans throughout the school year and spent the last week assembling a timeline to go along with the people they have learned about. Next, these 2nd graders will be writing opinion pieces about why these people are influential.
This week, 8th and 9th graders watched My Name is Pauli Murray, a documentary about a Durham native who was the first Black person to earn a JSD from Yale School of Law, among other accomplishments. The 10th-12th graders went to the Haw River Ballroom to watch a performance about Wyatt Outlaw, the first African American elected to be Town Commissioner in Graham, NC and lynched by white supremacists in 1870.
As students learned through the panel discussion following that performance, understanding our history is critical to moving forward. We have enjoyed celebrating the contributions of Black and African Americans and look forward to continuing these studies throughout the school year.