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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!

Wondawoman said...
Mar. 22, 2010 at 7:12 am:
I totally agree ! This article was extremely well written ! We as African Americans need to know our whole history, not just the parts that are taught to us during the month of February!
 
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BigHair said...
Mar. 22, 2010 at 7:09 am:
I totally agree, I think it is important for everyone to understand the contributions African Americans made to society.
 
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mrsgrandmaoffive said...
Mar. 21, 2010 at 12:45 pm:
The lack of African American history/curriculum in school has been an issue for many years. This young writer has addressed it and in such an informative way. Well done!
 
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JDANI said...
Mar. 21, 2010 at 1:18 am:
This is wonderfully written! It is great that teens are addressing this issue.
 
DaMack replied...
Mar. 21, 2010 at 6:37 am :
This article is very much needed. Last week over the PA system at a Walmart in NJ, some teen announced "All black people please leave the store." This is an outrage, some people are foolish enough to believe because we have a black president that racism doesn't exist anymore.
 
Monkeypoet1996 replied...
Nov. 24, 2010 at 7:23 am :
my school is in the UK and we do lots in black history month
 
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J BASS said...
Mar. 20, 2010 at 8:11 am:
Wonderful with a wealth of information included.
 
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LONERANGA said...
Mar. 19, 2010 at 5:15 pm:
Great insight. Clear, concise and well-written.
 
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BlueSweet said...
Mar. 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm:
Thought provoking!!!!!
 
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goldengoddess said...
Mar. 19, 2010 at 2:32 pm:
Great essay, this issue applies to most miniorities who live in this country.
 
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Valbritki said...
Mar. 19, 2010 at 6:29 am:
This was so well written and true. Our children need to be better educated on their history. Maybe then they'll see all those who has sacrificed so that they can live in a "better" world. The children today have no values!!
 
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madisonsmother05 said...
Mar. 19, 2010 at 6:11 am:
Very well-written article. Great job!
 
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Terrance said...
Mar. 18, 2010 at 10:46 pm:
Sienna, good essay/article, I enjoyed reading and look forward to reading your others. Question: Who is your favorite African/African-American Icon and why?
 
ButItsBetterIfYouDo replied...
Mar. 20, 2010 at 8:40 am :
My favorite African-American icon would have to be Toni Morrison. She came from a large, working-class family and still managed to become the successful woman she is today. She is an inspiration to me because she has contributed many great works to modern literature and I hope I can do the same thing one day.
 
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DeeCee said...
Mar. 18, 2010 at 10:13 pm:
This is only one of the major ills plaguing the American School System.
 
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