Juliette and Addison worked very hard on a Black History Month book last year and with the addition of Kate and Tori I figured it'd be great to do it again. This year we focused on Ruby Bridges and Jackie Robinson with brief lessons on Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King Jr. We read children's books about each person. For Ruby Bridges week we each took turns describing her and I wrote their individual responses in their books. They were inspired by how strong, good, smart, brave and kind Ruby Bridges was and we discussed what they would do if a new child was in their class and felt different. They also drew pictures of Ruby for their books. Some had her at her desk, some walking to school. We were fortunate to have recently finished The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes and Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, both of which are about a girl who is different and new in a classroom and judged harshly as a result. Forgiveness is a big theme when it comes to the story of Ruby Bridges.
Frederick Douglass allowed us to explore slavery and what it means to be born into slavery. We discussed the harsh reality of Douglass' childhood. He worked in terrible conditions, fieldwork in extreme heat, very little to eat, abuse and hardly any clothing, etc. We also talked about his freedom. They enjoyed hearing of his freedom to have a family, his freedom to write about his life and start a newspaper as well as his friendship with Abraham Lincoln. Born into slavery but dying a free man is something these child will never fully understand but what they did understand is that Douglass did not give up. They were especially drawn in by his childhood experiences and how thankful they should be for all they have. We displayed their ideas about slavery and freedom with a chart displaying symbols of slavery and freedom.
Having discussed Martin Luther King Jr. in the beginning of the year, they felt confident discussing him and connecting him with the other African Americans we talked about, especially Ruby Bridges. Both Bridges and King were peaceful, faithful people. They both faced hatred and it showed the girls that power and courage can be undertaken at any age, any gender. We decorated boys and girls of all colors in our books to represent that we are all equal no matter our appearance.
Jackie Robinson was a totally different ballgame for the girls, literally! I was very excited to introduce him as they have a growing interest in baseball with t-ball season coming up. They are used to discussing more political scenarios as opposed to sports and celebrity which I don't think had crossed their minds. That even in film and sports there were major regulations. It was surprising to them that an African American was given such a hard time to join a baseball team, especially with the dominance of African Americans in many sports today. The hatred an amazing baseball player experienced on the field mirrored what we'd read about so many other famous African Americans. For their last section of their book they shared with me something they'd love to be the first to do and they stitched a paper baseball together.
Never stop sharing and teaching children at ANY age!! Their minds have so many different ways of seeing things which may open your own mind to another way of understanding even the most complex subjects!