The Association for the Study of African American Life and History chose to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Carter G. Woodson's establishment of "Negro History Week" (now Black History Month) by reviewing the theme of another great African American thinker, W.E.B. DuBois. At the dawn of the twentieth century, DuBois prophesied more than once that the problem of the color line (race) would dominate the world's historical landscape. At the close of the twentieth century, this country continued to be mired in vitriolic displays of individual and systematic acts of racism: 170 burnings of black churches, black men dragged to death by white racists in Illinois and Texas, 41 shots by New York policemen at an unarmed black man reaching for his wallet are but a few examples.
Even after the convening of a national panel to address the historical impact of racism, politics weighed heavily in the decision that America did not owe African Americans as much as an apology for centuries of hate and oppression. Marking the official end of the tumultuous twentieth century of DuBois's prophecy, the international community brought together community leaders, governmental officials, world leaders, and scholars at the United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001 to address the ramifications of racism and xenophobia. The current administration initially refused to send any American representation to Durban. Only after acquiescing to domestic and international pressure did this government respond by sending any representation, and it responded by sending a low level official at that. Indeed, the issue of the color line (race) is alive today, but many of those who need to be at the forefront of the discussion choose to be mute when their voices are needed most.
Fortunately, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History in the spirit of its founder, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, had the vision and temerity to center the issue of the "color line" (race) for its 2002 Black History Month Learning Resource Package. This package is an important, ongoing contribution to Dr. Carter G. Woodson's vision for a commemoration and celebration of the life, history, and culture of black people. The editorial board humbly accepted the invitation to serve, and thought it most efficacious to examine the issue of the color line (race) among five broad, but important areas: Politics, Education, Economics, Culture (mass media), and Global Dimensions.
To make the Learning Resource Package accessible to teachers, we preceded each of the five chapters with an overview. Furthermore, each chapter contains discussion questions, activities for students, key terms, and other resources for teachers.
The Foci for the Chapters
The chapters in the section on Politics share in common an attempt to explain the existence of racism. Howard Zinn's "Drawing the Color Line" searches for an historical point to signal the birth of racism on the shores of North America. Conversely, Stephen J. Gould documents the "scientific" rationales for racism and shows scientists' attempts to quantify black inferiority. C. Vann Woodward, on the other hand, discusses racism in the aftermath of the Civil War.
Understandably, many educators today wonder if racism affects the institution of education. Unfortunately, education is not exempt from the pernicious grasp of racism as the contributors to the Learning Resource Package indicate. Carter G. Woodson's warning in his seminal The Mis-Education of the Negro holds relevance for today:
The same educational process which inspires and stimulates the oppressor
with the thought that he is everything and has accomplished everything
worthwhile, depresses and crushes at the same time the spark of genius in
the Negro by making him feel that his race does not amount to much and
never will measure up to the standard of other people. …