Black history taught all year at city school

ByMichael Bratcher

Black history lessons did not end last week for students at Oklahoma City’s KIPP Reach College Preparatory School.

Black History Month concluded Sunday, but Knowledge Is Power Program Principal Tracy McDaniel teaches his 115 fifth- and sixth-graders about historic black leaders the entire school year.

“I grew up in this neighborhood and never had a book with a black author until graduating school,” he said. “In all my years of schooling, I never had that experience, and I wanted to make sure the kids got it.”

Now, a book rack in the school displays such titles as “Let the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Black Knights.” His predominantly black student body comes from across the metro area. Many students say they learned little about black culture before coming to the school, 1432 NE 7.

Sixth-grader Rachael Teague, 11, said people should not be limited to studying black history during February.

During the past five months, Rachael said she has learned about Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. Historic black leaders are featured on bulletin boards in the school’s large meeting room.

Ashley Gordon, 12, said Black History Month is a remembrance of how hard her ancestors worked to be free and have equal rights.

“Nothing is holding us back anymore, and that really makes me happy,” she said.

Landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions, including Plessey v. Ferguson and Brown v. Board of Education, also have been topics of discussion in McDaniel’s classes.

Danielle Teague, 11, said she knew little about Douglass before enrolling at KIPP. Now, the sixth-grader said she knows about the abolitionist’s work to help free slaves.

“If it weren’t for Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass or Dr. Martin Luther King, I wouldn’t have the rights I have,” Danielle said.

She said she’s certain that in her lifetime she’ll see a female president. If it’s left up to classmate Ashley, the first female president will be black. Ashley said she wants to be president.

Paige Wilson, 11, said she would like to make history of her own and become the nation’s third black U.S. Supreme Court justice.

McDaniel said his lessons often go beyond the classroom and into his students’ homes. Paige said she has shared her knowledge of black history with her older sister, who attends a nearby school district.

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