American History Month in 1976.
It was initially celebrated largely in segregated Southern black schools - one reason older Southern-born black people know more about themselves and their past than their grandchildren do. However underfunded and understaffed, these schools were responsible to their students. They tried to teach the basics -
reading, writing, arithmetic and history - but also tried to make sure that Negro History was a constant part of the curriculum too.
Thus long before I heard the word diversity or multiculturism applied to education or the workplace, I knew a black man invented the machine that made the shoe industry possible and another had designed the city of Washington, another had invented the traffic light and another had discovered blood plasma. Long before I ever dreamed the nation would celebrate a black man's birthday - indeed long before I had heard of or even met that man before he became my teacher - my teachers in rural one-room schools with outhouses made sure I knew who I was and where I came from and what contribution my people had made.
We also learned how to think.
We didn't learn that Columbus had discovered America, but that Columbus discovered America for Europe; those who met him didn't need discovering; they already knew it was here.
We knew the textbooks which described the Civil War as "a war of Northern aggression" or said the war was fought over states' rights were just plain wrong. The war was fought over whether our great-grandfathers and mothers would be someone
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