Black History, or Just History?

Library display highlights Black History Month 

On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, Abington Middle-High School Library and Media Specialist Mrs. London stands inside the library. On the glass is the photo contest to celebrate Black History month.

Linda Daye, Contributor

Abington High School kicked off Black History Month on Monday, Feb. 3 by having homerooms show a video made by Google which highlighted the accomplishments of African Americans.

The topic of Black history has lingered in the background during the month of February at Abington High. But the new middle-high school library media specialist Mrs. Patricia London has brought the topic of Black history to the forefront in a unique way. A photo contest. 

Through the contest, students who visit the library will be able to learn about Black women and their contributions. 

The idea came to Mrs. London because she loves to celebrate events. And Mrs. London realized that it can be difficult to put across the horrible parts of Black-American history, such as the enslavement, lynching, Jim Crow, but that it is important to acknowledge this has happened. 

Mrs. London complied photos in the library to show a range of Black women essential to history. The pictures came from Cristi Smith-Jones, of Kent, Washington, of her daughter Lola dressed as different women important to history. Mrs. London said that Smith-Jones of Kent shared these recreated photos on Twitter and this is where Mrs. London found them.

Mrs. London has always had an interest in American History, which just so happens to include Black history. She first found her interest in American history itself in 2017 when she spent a week in Birmingham, AL. She attended a summer program called National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). 

Pullquote Photo

I believe what’s most important about teaching history in general is connecting it to the present.”

— Mrs. London

While staying in Alabama she was able to visit the jail cell where Martin Luther King Jr. wrote the “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.” The group Mrs. London traveled with also spent time with the attorney that represented Rosa Parks, Fred Gray. She also met Emmett Till’s cousin who was present the night that Till was abducted and killed. 

Mrs. London considers herself “a total history geek,” because she views history as people rather than dates. This perfectly reflects how she wants to teach students this part of American History. 

In addition to the photo contest, Mrs. London has displayed books around the library’s coffee tables on the theme of Black history. This strategy makes it so that students have that possible topic put in front of them when they visit the library to borrow. “So far it has worked. A few people have borrowed books and I’ve noticed people picking up books I’ve put out,” Mrs. London said. 

Mrs. London is aware of the way some educators feel about teaching their students about Black history, but it is only a matter of how the teacher wants to educate their students. “I think it is really important for students to know about these topics but believe that they need to be taught with care and sensitivity.” She also recommends for other educators’ resources from Teaching Tolerance.

“I believe what’s most important about teaching history in general is connecting it to the present.” She said that the events that happened in the past such as the Children’s March from 1963 is comparable to the Parkland March for Our Lives. Mrs. London believes the questions “What has changed?” and “What still needs to change?” are important.

Mrs. London’s efforts to educate others is a step in the right direction. The photo contest ends Friday, March 13 and the highest scoring students will be entered into a drawing to win a gift card. The photos will also highlight Women’s History Month, which begins in March.