readergirlz is a literacy and social media project for teens, awarded the National Book Foundation's Innovations in Reading Prize. The rgz blog serves as a depot for news and YA reviews from industry professionals and teens. As volunteers return full force to their own YA writing, the organization continues to hold one initiative a year to impact teen literacy. All are welcome to "like" us on Facebook!

Friday, February 19, 2010

February: Is the History of Slavery Important?

A student recently said, "I don't care about slavery. That happened a long time ago, and I don't want to think about it in my life today. It is no longer important." What do you think about that statement? Tell why you agree or disagree. What would you tell that student if you had the chance to have a conversation?


JenFW said...

Yowzer! First, I'd thank the student for being honest. We can't address attitudes and misconceptions we don't know exist.

Then I'd try to find some real-life current inequalities that are important to the student and draw parallels to slavery. Maybe seeing how we've progressed from slavery will shed light on how to progress past current inequalities.

I'd also want to demonstrate the importance of seeing beyond our immediate surroundings and how understanding history enables us to better understand ourselves, our society, and our world.

Teachers have a BIG job! Thank goodness there are authors and great books to help.

Enna Isilee said...

I partially agree with that student, but only partially. I think it's important to remember slavery so that we can avoid any semblance of it in the future.

However, I think too many people are still fixated on the idea. I'm amazed at how many people still get riled up over slavery-- both descendants of slaves and slaveholders. And I think they need to forget a little.

If we keep talking about how Black and White people were segregated like that, how can we really move past it?

Enna Isilee said...

Hm... I'm not sure why I capatlized Black and White. Hee.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I just completed my student teaching experience, about two months ago in December. I taught history to both middle school and high school. It is absolutely essential that students learn about the history of slavery. Why? So they can see the long line of racism and poverty and how it extends into today. It's my job to teach social justice. I mean, sharecropping, which was quite similar to slavery, as it bound people to the land (see: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/reconstruction/sharecrop/index.html). It's important for kids to see the connectedness of events and also to see how these events apply to the real world. I could walk into a (high school) classroom and ask my students - what's a ghetto? who lives in the ghetto? why? And so, we get a discussion of social justice going.

However, I think it's incredibly important for educators to teach students about people of color throughout the curriculum, and not just during Black History Month. Rather, every day should be a day for Black history. I understand, it's a start, but Black people have done so much more than just be slaves and then fight for Civil Rights. There was also the Harlem Renaissance, for example. There is certainly space in the curriculum for it.

Lorie Ann Grover said...

Passionate answers, rgz!

What comes immediately to mind for me is simply that history repeats itself. It's foolish not to look and learn and thereby avoid a fall.

Shelf Elf said...

I agree with you Lorie Ann, that remembering is a way to hopefully avoid repeating past wrongs. I like to think that it's possible to remember and learn and understand the lasting implications of injustice while at the same time being able to look to the future with openness and hope.

Erin said...

Ooohhh boy. So. This theme - bad things in history that people don't (want to) care or know about anymore - is a sore spot with me at the moment. Right now I'm in the show The Diary of Anne Frank, and I'm learning so much about the Holocaust, and you'd be surprised at how many people want to a) forget it happened, b) don't even know about it, c) don't think it's important or relevant. Because I'm playing this role of a real girl in history, I feel even more attached to her and feel SO strongly and passionately about her story and the importance and necessity of this time period's truth. I mean, I feel that way anyway about tough things in history, but doing this show right now just heightens it.

Same thing with slavery. WE CANNOT FORGET ABOUT THESE THINGS. If we want to grow as people and not have history repeat itself, we have to KNOW about the past and LEARN from it. We can't do this if it's forgotten or if we think it's "irrelevant."

Unknown said...

WOWZERZZ...wel all i wana say is if it wasnt for that happenin then yuh wouldnt be here now

Unknown said...

At this very second there are *27 million people* currently enslaved across the world. More than there ever was 100 years ago. I would encourage the student to consider this fact and see how reading/discussing the social and economic situations that enable such cruelty are still very relevant and important stories.

Check out www.freetheslaves.org.

I think many, many adults (including commentors above me) don't know this fact. It's hurtful to see statements such as Enna's "However, I think too many people are still fixated on the idea. I'm amazed at how many people still get riled up over slavery-- both descendants of slaves and slaveholders. And I think they need to forget a little."

"Never again!" is not only the tag phrase of the Holocaust but but also the current genocide prevention movement regarding Darfur. I would caution people to be more careful about their relative states of privilege such that they don't trivialize the very real, modern hurt and ongoing inequalities that result from the residue of past slavery and current oppressions.

Allies and descendants against slavery need to remember and act for justice. By not forgetting. By modeling/standing for freedom and making sure stories of freedom prevail.

This is my first time on this site. I'm really thrilled with what you are doing...and I hope the conversation on such issues are mindful.

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