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A Tree Without Roots

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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 75 comments. Post your own!

unoit said...
Apr. 1, 2010 at 8:46 am:
I learned about Charlotte Grimke in English class last month.  She was an amazing writer.   Can you imagine how difficult it must have been for an African American woman to get published in The Atlantic Monthly?  This is still one of the most prestigious publications for writers today.
 
GreatDaneLoverThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. replied...
Feb. 11 at 1:42 pm :
I totaly agree!
 
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Rutgers said...
Mar. 31, 2010 at 10:19 am:
I truely enjoyed this article.  Her perspective regarding why young people lack knowledge regading their history was most impressive.
 
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Keesha said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 2:43 pm:
Very unique view, I always believed the media was to blame for many of the problems in the communities of miniorities, never thought about the school system.  Great food for thought, at least it got me thinking.
 
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Sunshine said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 10:48 am:
I do agree that we as a race of people, African Americans are not getting our due rewards.  We have contruted so much to history, but the Europeans donot want it to be known.  However what we can do is to remind our own people of our history, and not limit it  to February only.
 
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Quetta11 said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 10:35 am:
Attending a prodominately multicultured school up until highschool, i must admit, I lacked most of the knowledge of my Roots. In  my formative years the opportunity to experience African American History seemed scarce, now that I look back upon it, therefore it is well to know that youth, such as yourself, are aware of the inequities of the educational system and able to share your knowledge with others. As you wrote, "Many of these unsung heroes never get a sentence let alone a p... (more »)
 
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Mr.S said...
Mar. 30, 2010 at 10:34 am:
Well written article and oh, so true.  As a Social Studies teacher, my opinion is that unfortunately, the contributions of most if not all minorities have either been "overlooked" or not given full attention in the history books.   As America has been called the "Great Melting Pot" to use an old phrase, our history should reflect the contributions, etc., of all that have come to our shores.
 
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howboutthat said...
Mar. 29, 2010 at 10:30 am:
I too feel the African American experience is often trivialized by the American school system.   I think more of our peers should also pick up the pen and write to our school leaders to complain about this problem. You have sure motivated me to do so!!!!
 
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Steelerman62 said...
Mar. 27, 2010 at 10:26 am:
I found the report insightful and very important.  It was not until college that I had the opportunity to experience formal education of African American History. It was like I was reborn and my mind had been awaken. It's about the history of the world and elementary and secondary schools should certainly include it in their curriculum. I whole heartly agree with the author.
 
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sugamamaturns50 said...
Mar. 26, 2010 at 7:19 am:

Did you that Amy Garvey, (wife of Marcus) did most of the work for her husband who was jailed most of his life. Interesting Thoughts!!!!

Duchess to Alice(from Alice in Wonderland)

Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to then be otherwise.....

 
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myles57 said...
Mar. 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm:
Excellent essay! It's good to know that today's youth are aware of the inequities of the educational system. Well written and researched. I hope you are planning to teach someday.
 
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2big4u said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 2:03 pm:
Your point is sad but true. For far two long the African American experience has not been properly covered in the US school system.
 
2big4u replied...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 2:05 pm :
Oops!!! I meant to write for far too long.
 
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Rochelle said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 9:58 am:
This article was written by someone who has taking the time out to not only acknowledge the tradegy of African-American youths being deprived of their history but to take a stand. Five Stars! Yes, it is true a house will not survive a storm without a good foundation.
 
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BROWN said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 9:48 am:
THE ESSAY WAS FANTASTIC RESEARCH AND WRITING
 
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TEECHA said...
Mar. 24, 2010 at 7:30 am:
Just for your knowledge, I want you to know that in the state of NJ their is legistlation for African-American history to be infused into the curriculum and instruction at public schools. This legislation is called the Amistad Commission. The problem here is that who is willing to support, promote, and ultimately teach true African/American History on the elementary and High school levels. Unfortunately, we still live in a society where truth has to be sought after by the individual and not be... (more »)
 
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ericsmom2010 said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 6:08 pm:
Very insightful!!! It’s inspiring to read something by a young person that has so much knowledge about their heritage.
 
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Knowledge said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 5:39 pm:
As a teen this is very insightful and eye opening. Is there still hope for our teens that are ignorant of their history to become informed ???
 
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lodie said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm:
The essay was fantastic! Fantastic research, and writing.
 
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Big Willie said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 1:43 pm:
You are so right. Too many young people believe African American culture begins with Tupac and end with Lil Wayne.
 
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mama curl said...
Mar. 23, 2010 at 11:06 am:
This was a great article and very true. If you don't know where you're going you won't know where you're going.
 
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