Black History Opens New Doors to Learning

By Tate, Alysia | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), March 6, 1997 | Go to article overview
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Black History Opens New Doors to Learning


Tate, Alysia, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Alysia Tate Daily Herald Staff Writer

When Bessie Smith was his age, she sang on street corners for spare change.

And even though 9-year-old Demarco Stokes of Arlington Heights has had a very different childhood than the blues queen, learning about her life was Stokes' favorite part of Black History Month.

"She lived to be really, really old, but she didn't always have a good life," he said. "But she sang a song that I liked."

Stokes shared that song, "Mr. Rich Man," with his class at Virginia Lake Elementary School in Palatine as part of activities planned by his teacher, Deborah Turner, who has been teaching there for 13 years.

As one of a handful of black teachers in Palatine Township Elementary District 15, Turner has helped encourage her colleagues to make studying black history a part of their lessons each February - and beyond.

Her own classroom, for instance, features a bulletin board that maps the events leading up to Black History Month, including a photograph and short biography about its founder, Carter G. Woodson.

It also includes pictures of stamps featuring black Americans and books her students can read if they want to learn more.

She brings many of her own works of art and posters to fill a small "showcase" display outside her classroom that teaches students more about heroes such as Sojourner Truth, Frederick Douglass and Rosa Parks.

But even though she feels her own experiences enhance such lessons, more and more teachers of all races are teaching students about black history year-round, Turner said.

"I think we're all more conscious of it now," she said. "I always tell kids as they learn about other people's cultures that it helps them learn about their own cultures.

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