We start this school year a few months after one of the largest eruptions of mass protest this country has ever seen. The gruesome video of a white police officer murdering George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes, set off a national rebellion. To truly understand this uprising, you need to go much deeper than investigating Floyd’s death, or even police brutality: You need to understand Black history.
In Philadelphia, for example, one of the main targets of the protests was the statue honoring former Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo. Why did protestors target this statue?
To answer that question, you need to go back to November 17, 1967, when more than 3,500 Philadelphia high school students poured out of their school buildings and marched to the Board of Education building to protest conditions for Black students. Among their list of 25 demands was an infusion of Black history into the curriculum. The students were greeted by 350 police officers under the command of then Chief of Police Rizzo. As the number of demonstrators continued to grow, the police grew increasingly uneasy. Suddenly, Rizzo yelled “Get their Black Asses!” and police began clubbing and stomping the students. The police charge was so vicious that many witnesses were brought to tears. Forty-two students and 15 adults were arrested, and dozens were injured. Despite Rizzo’s harsh treatment of children peacefully protesting, he went on to become Mayor of Philadelphia and a statue honoring him stood across from City Hall until protestors forced the city to take it down this summer.
The 1967 walkout and the harsh police response also became a catalyst for the creation of Black history courses and Black studies departments in universities throughout the U.S. and eventually in 2005 Philadelphia became the first city in the country to make African American history a requirement for graduation.
This is the only course you will take in high school that was fought for and won by students like yourselves.
WHAT IS THE POINT OF THIS COURSE?
Students across the country continue to fight for Black history courses. The reason Black history is so important to so many people is because looking at U.S. history through the Black experience helps us all better understand ourselves, our history, our present, and our potential futures. Black history is a history of racism and oppression, but it is also a history of resilience and resistance. Because this history challenges so much of what we’re told the United States is about — freedom, democracy, the American Dream — when Black people begin to resist in this country, it has often inspired others to fight and protest. Therefore, studying Black history is essential to understanding the ways people have fought to make this country better— and how we can do so today.
We’ll start with what’s happening today, examining the Black Lives Matter movement and this summer's uprising. Than we'll go backwards and move mostly chronologically through Black history focusing in depth on 4 key moments that will take us back to where we began:
Slavery and abolition
Reconstruction and the first Civil Rights Movement
The long Civil Rights Movement (1940s-1970s)
The rise of mass incarceration
Each of these will include several “inquiries” in which we explore compelling questions and communicate-conclusions.
This class is about race, racism, and anti-racism as much as it is about history. We’ll be debating and discussing controversial and meaningful topics.
There will be lots of reading and writing. This class does not use a textbook but we will learn to critique textbooks and dominant historical narratives that often parrot a lens that contradicts the African American experience. This means that the readings for the course will be pulled from a variety of sources.
This class will be about history, but it will also be about you and making sense of your own experiences in light of the history you will learn. That means we will regularly be writing about our own lives and connecting them to the themes we're learning about.
WHAT ARE THE EXPECTATIONS FOR STUDENTS?
This is a school year like no other. My primary concern as a teacher during this pandemic is to keep you safe and lower your anxiety. In order to do this, I need you to communicate with me. Please don't hesitate to contact me. Let me know when your situation makes it difficult to meet expectations or you are feeling overwhelmed. In addition to the Lincoln High School student norms, and our virtual Zoom class expectations I expect you to:
Challenge yourself and others
It’s vital that everyone feels safe and comfortable enough to participate. Absolutely no racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic put-downs.
WHERE WILL I SUBMIT MY WORK?
HOW WILL I BE GRADED?
The goal of this class will be to develop your skills as a thinker, listener, speaker, reader and a writer. As per Philadelphia school district policy your grades will consist of the following:
40% - Tests/Essays
30% - Project-Based Learning
20% - Classwork
10% - Homework
WILL I HAVE A LOT OF HOMEWORK?
Educational research is unclear whether homework has any benefit for students. I'm particularly concerned about giving too much homework during the pandemic, when you are expected to be on a screen for so long each day. Therefore, homework in our class will mostly be work that you start but do not finish in class.
CAN I TURN IN
When you are absent, you are responsible for completing all missed assignments. If you have to be absent for multiple days, please contact me to explain the situation and figure out how to make up the work. You can see the Lincoln High School late work policy here. For my class, if you are submitting late work, you will not recieve a penalty if you fill out "That Late Jawn."