A Tree Without Roots

March 10, 2010
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“A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin, and culture is like a tree without roots”

-Marcus Garvey

A significant issue in the lives of African Americans is a subtle, yet important one. I believe the root of the problem can be found in America’s public school system. History classes are structured around teaching students about European civilization and exploration. Much of African and African American history is not covered in schools, possibly due to deep seeded racism since the conception of slavery in America.

Most students, whether black or white, are unaware of the fact that the first modern man was of African descent. They are also ignorant of the fact that Africans created prosperous civilizations with their own hierarchies, weapons, and jewelry before humans even spread to Europe. In 690 B.C., Taharka, the greatest of the Ethiopian Pharaohs, began his rule and under his kingship his country enjoyed a period of prosperity for about twenty-five years. Sadly, many African Americans (and people of other races, for that matter) do not know the rich history of Africa. To most Americans, Africa is a place where lawless savages ran wild not the place credited for the beginning of human civilization.

The next phase of African American history, usually trivialized to a chapter, a page, or a paragraph depending on the school or grade level is the African Diaspora and Slavery. Many history programs forget or refuse to mention the Black heroes of this time, such as Nat Turner, Jean Jacques DesSalines, Robert Purvis, and Charlotte Grimke. Students are led to believe slaves were content with their plight in life and Abraham Lincoln was the slaves’ saving grace. Little is mentioned about the Africans on board the Amistad who rebelled against their captors or Toussaint L’Ouverture, a former slave who lead the revolt in Haiti. Many of these unsung heroes never get a sentence let alone a page in most history textbooks.

The Civil Rights Movement was a ground breaking event in African American history. Great African American leaders, such as, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X left a permanent mark in American history. Undoubtedly, most Americans can identify the aforementioned people, but what about the significant figures of color before this era? African Americans did not wait idly by until 1950 to seek equality or justice. Thurgood Marshall began litigating cases on inequality in the late 1930s in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. In 1909, W.E. B. DuBois and other influential African Americans started the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). African American History is more than slavery and the Civil Right’s Movement.

A Yoruba (West African tribe) proverb reads, “If we stand tall it is because we stand on the backs of those who came before us.” How can American children of African descent stand tall with so little knowledge of our past? Without being proud of one’s heritage, it is also impossible to be proud of one’s self. I believe this lack of self-awareness is one of the major ills plaguing the Black communities in America, because how can anyone have true self-esteem, without knowing who one self truly is?

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This article has 78 comments. Post your own now!

Allylosso said...
Nov. 19, 2015 at 8:01 pm
Does this have anything to do with the past or no?
2JWARD said...
Nov. 4, 2015 at 10:04 am
In today’s classes, we rarely focus on Africa's history. “If we stand tall it is because we stand on the backs of those who came before us.” That line tells us that before us were individuals that were Native Americans, slaves, immigrants and more. This piece of work should be read by numerous people. I agree with this poem as our ancestors are usually forgotten.
SarahM15 said...
Oct. 15, 2013 at 5:14 pm
I agree that a signifigant issue is the teaching of history in the american public schooling system. They focus on american history and european history, but what about african history? If modern man origially decended from Africa I find the history of Africa to be quite important.
Anthonyhitsbombs7 said...
Oct. 15, 2013 at 3:35 pm
If you don't know your past then you have no future! Lol
CaribbeanGIRL said...
Jan. 9, 2013 at 8:05 pm
I found this particularly interesting and I definitely agree with what the author is saying. Coming from a caribbean nation and being able to travel to different countries of the African diaspora and attend a historically black college in the US, I see the exact same things. Negroes who were brought here to serve white people became totally brainwashed about their history and as a result of this suffer a complex identity problem. Like Marcus Garvey said, "A people without the knowledge of t... (more »)
Smithy1830 said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 2:25 pm
I very much enjoyed reading this article.  It was very well written and completely true.  We should definately learn more about Africa
KalebPurds replied...
Jul. 6, 2015 at 12:36 am
Wow this is very good now youve got some talent!!!
Nelu96 said...
Aug. 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm
I'm sad to hear that because i also believe in the importance of history. I live in Africa and luckily we learn a lot about our history over here.
Brianna M. said...
Jan. 11, 2012 at 7:18 am
I really enjoyed reading your article. I don't know much about African American History but I do believe we should learn more about them rather than just mentioning their exsistance and moving onto another topic.
teenink987654321 said...
Jan. 11, 2012 at 7:11 am
This post really got me thinking. We really don't learn too much about Africa and its sad because they have affected America. Its also sad that African- Americans don't know about thier past. I really loved the way you wrote! Good job!
Noah C. said...
Jan. 11, 2012 at 7:05 am
Huh, yeah you are right. All we do in History class is talk about the history of America and people like Paul Revere and George Washington, but what about all of the African AMerican influences?
screename4 said...
Jan. 11, 2012 at 6:02 am
It's really bad that even the schools might be so messed up because of racism in the past.
Jazzyjaz12 said...
Nov. 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm
Yeah! I totally agree with this. I've been in the public school district for 16 years and we barely touch the fact of our history. We basically build this country. Not saying other races haven't either but  I just think that we should talk more about African American history and also other cultures as well. I would totally enjoy that.
JojoMimi said...
Oct. 15, 2011 at 7:41 pm
I totally agree. In history class, we always learn about European history along with a brief mention of African history. It is truly sad. African American history and Native American history are often overlooked. Maybe if everyone learned of each other's history, there wouldn't be so much hate and racism. It would help us all to better understand each other.
dreamscapes said...
Jun. 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm
My school is also extremely multicultrual but we don't even have a month for other issues besides for european expansionand the american revolution and i've never noticed it before. Thanks that was really eye opening
PoWWow17 said...
May 24, 2011 at 8:44 am
I agree wit hhte piece that you have written but it's not only african american people that are being forgotten Native American people have history that i think people should know.
ThisBreRulezYouSonnn said...
Aug. 16, 2010 at 9:19 am
Teachers don't seem to pay enough attention to black history month like they used to... :/
krazykathleen said...
May 5, 2010 at 4:36 pm
I attend a public school, and we learn lots about African Americans, along with standard American history. Some othe schools may be different, though. Nice writing and research.
Diamond said...
Apr. 6, 2010 at 9:23 am
I too understand.  I attend a multicultural high school, however, we only learn about blacks in Feb., Hispanics in Sept., and famous women in Mar.  How sad and America is suppose to be a melting pot?
iluvu2 replied...
Apr. 13, 2010 at 2:42 pm
My school situation is very similiar.  We only celebrate other cultures during holidays, otherwise we are only learning about people who represent "main stream" America.
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