Although history books include crucial information about our past, when it comes to racial inequality in America, they tend to be whitewashed, as suggested in an NPR interview with eleventh-grade U.S. history teacher, Samantha Manchac, from Houston, Texas. When talking about using textbooks in Manchac’s class, Laura Isensee (interviewer) says, “She doesn’t want to rely solely on the brand-new texts because she says the guidelines for the books downplay some issues – like slavery – and skirt others – like Jim Crow laws. She says it’s ‘definitely an attempt in many instances to whitewash our history, as opposed to exposing students to the reality of things and letting them make decisions for themselves.’” This concealed way of looking at things is in no doubt much more comfortable to read and have conversations about, but it’s not the truth. Discussions during Black History Month seem to be about the same people every year, and while our country wouldn’t be the same without them, there are many unsung heroes who deserve to have their stories told as well.
Nash was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, and when enrolled in Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee (1959), she came face to face with widespread segregation in the south for the very first time. As a college student, Nash participated in multiple sit-ins at local lunch counters and attended nonviolent protest workshops. After dropping out of school to pursue a life fighting for what she believed in, she was arrested more than a dozen times for speaking out against racial injustice. For her determination, persistence, and courageousness, Diane Nash received the Rosa Parks award from Martin Luther King Jr. in 1965. She still continues to remain a voice of change at age 79.
William Wells Brown
Novelist, playwright and historian. He was considered to be the first African American to publish a novel. He became a very influential lecturer after escaping slavery and spoke out on behalf of civil rights and women’s rights. Brown later published his book, Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave, Written by Himself.
Colvin is best known as the 15 year old who refused to give up her seat on the bus even before Rosa Parks did. She was arrested on March 2nd, 1955. This wasn’t publicized for various reasons, such as her being described as “feisty” and “emotional”. She was also pregnant, which made leaders think that she wouldn’t be the right person to be at the face of the movement. She was later involved in the legal case of Browder v. Gayle, which helped end segregation on Montgomery public buses.
Growing up in West Chester, Pennsylvania, Rustin’s family was very involved in civil rights work, which sparked his passion. He was an activist, promoting causes like civil rights, socialism, nonviolence, and gay rights. He refused to fight in World War II and was jailed as a conscientious objector. It was because of him that the civil rights movement took up the non-violent principle. He once said, “The only weapons we have is our bodies, and we have to tuck them in places so wheels don’t turn.” Rustin was the man behind the March on Washington, and organized it in less than two months. He remained mostly behind the scenes, but without him, the influential march and other events that shaped America may have never happened.
Read, listen, watch, talk. Celebrate the victories and acknowledge the defeats. Don’t let unfair, unjust and cruel comments go unquestioned, and don’t follow people blindly. As Angie Thomas, in her book, The Hate U Give, writes, “your voices matter, your dreams matter, your lives matter. Be roses that grow in the concrete.”
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Why We Can’t Wait by Martin Luther King Jr.
That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us. What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?