It always seems like Black History Month is over before you know it. For just 28 days out of the year, the country is exposed to the rich history of Black folks beyond the two chapters they were taught in grade school: slavery and civil rights. Unfortunately, the rarely told legacy of African-American contributions that students learn about during Black History Month can many times be quickly forgotten once February ends.
That is precisely the reason why a three-person team has developed a Black history textbook that offers a “gateway to connecting history to daily life” beyond February.
Black History 365 (BH 365) is an interactive U.S. history textbook that tells stories from the beginning in Ancient Africa through modern events and moments. It documents unique narratives of Black people with lessons that come alive through more than 3,000 original artifacts, including resources and curriculum for teachers and sections for families and small groups.
It is scheduled for release in the 2019 – 2020 academic year.
NewsOne sat down with the co-authors (Dr. Walter Milton Jr., a former school superintendent; Joel Freeman, a former NBA chaplain and founder of the Freeman Institute Black History Collection; and Heather R. Sanders, a former middle school educator and educational leader in Nashville) to find out more about BH 365.
What’s the goal of Black History 365?
Milton: To impact the lives of children across this great nation, particularly Black children. Black children have an education that’s void of anything that reminds them of their greatness and excellence in terms of achievement.
This textbook is for teachers and students in K-2, 3-5,6-8 and 9-12. It includes all of the components teachers need to be successful in delivering the information.
What makes Black History 365 different from what’s currently on the market?
Sanders: First, it helps to address the literacy gap. We have activities, assignments and tasks that are directly related to learning standards. BH 365 gives teachers a chance to collaborate and to utilize the curriculum in a number of ways, not just history.
Plus, Dr. Freeman’s Black history collection in the Freeman Institute is like none other. The pieces are of historical importance, and he’s allowed us to use them. They are mind-blowing. It will certainly inspire students and allow them to see things in history that they’ve never seen before.
And when you talk about the teacher resources that are available, they address concerns about the discomfort educators may have to introduce some of the historical facts in Black history.
All of that sets us apart from any other history book.
How does the textbook help to make Black history relevant beyond Black History Month?
Freeman: For us, Black History 365 is not transactional but missional—you could probably hear it in our voices. The number 365 is intentional. Every day there’s an opportunity to be inspired and receive the wisdom of history, and then apply it to our lives. Wisdom is the application of knowledge, and knowledge is power. That’s great, but how do you apply that? That’s really what we’re all about—the application of this knowledge in everyday life, and that’s why the name.
We’re also developing an app. We will blast everyone’s cellphone about a piece of Black history or inspirational statement.
We also have the concept of Black History 180—that’s about changing hearts and minds about the significance of Black history.
Are you promoting BH 365 beyond predominantly Black school districts?
Sanders: Absolutely. Black history is American history—not something different, even though it’s been ignored or there’s some fear factor involved. Because of that, this history is for anyone.
It’s important to tell students the truth. So, the longer that we don’t do that, the worse off I think we will be. And we have to find moments and things to celebrate with Black people and our history and not just relate everything back to slavery or civil rights. We talk about slavery trade and civil rights in the textbook, but the book is about so much more than that and really letting all people know — Black students, white students, Hispanic and Asian students — let them know Black people were significant to the founding of this country.
Parents, teachers and school administrators are encouraged to visit the BH 365 website, BlackHistoryMatters.org, where they can find the answers to any questions about this revolutionary approach to teaching Black history.