In schools across America this month, teachers put up bulletin boards and presented lessons for Black History Month. Students read the poetry of Langston Hughes. They studied the powerful “no” of Rosa Parks. They have been inspired by the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
At Capitol West Academy, students have celebrated all of these well-known African American figures – and a number of those who you may not have heard so much about. That’s because, this year, Charmin McGlaston, Guidance Counselor and Alumni Coordinator at Capitol West Academy, made it her mission to introduce students to lesser-known figures.
Big Impact of the Lesser Known
“It is not my intention to take away from the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks,” says Ms. McGlaston. “It is my intention to open the eyes of our students and show them that there are many things that African Americans have worked towards and accomplished.”
Every morning in February, Ms. McGlaston made a 5-7 minute announcement introducing students to an important figure in African American history. “I began each announcement with their name and accomplishment or maybe a message about what the person stood for. Sometimes I added things to make it memorable and fun, like when I played Bob Marley music the day I talked about him.”
With the help of a set of Black History flashcards (given to McGlaston by CWA Executive Director Dr. Mora Anderson) and a bit of research, Ms. McGlaston compiled an eclectic list of leaders, activists, and innovators. She wanted students to know that “the sky is the limit when they think about what they want to do or be.”
The figures she chose for the month showed students infinite possibilities and the importance of African American figures in our everyday lives. “For example, did you know that Dr. Shirley Jackson developed the fiber optic cable and she holds a doctorate in Nuclear Physics? Or that Marie Van Brittan Brown invented closed circuit television security?,” asks Ms. McGlaston. “Or that Otis Boykin invented the pacemaker?”
Other figures included Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, anti-segregation activist Medgar Evers, and Civil Rights pioneer Claudette Colvin.
Making connections with such figures can open the minds of students. As Ms. McGlaston says, “They will know that their history was much more than slavery, segregation, and fighting for equal rights.” Plus, these figures exemplify the values that serve as guides to CWA Wildcats every day.
“It is my hope that students at CWA see and feel the determination, self-control, honor, and responsibility shown by these famous African Americans…It is my hope that they see this and begin to live the core values even more.”
Although these announcements occured throughout February, Ms. McGlaston believes that “Black History is something we should share with students year round.” By showcasing the essential roles that African Americans have played in building and bettering America, Ms. McGlaston is making this possible.