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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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Dismantling Racism through Knowledge—Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

We are a white family desiring to combat racism. We plan to use the summer to fill in gaps in our knowledge of African American history. Where should we start?

Family of Five

Dear FoF,

Bravo! Fear of the unknown is one of the causes of prejudice and discrimination. The state of Maryland is rich with historic figures, places, and events. Peruse this list of Resources and Related Links provided by the Maryland Commission on African American History and Culture to get a head start on your family’s journey.

Historic Events
Juneteenth  is a good example of an event well-known to African-Americans in Maryland (and across the country), but until this year, not so widely known by others. On June 19, 1865, months after the Confederate army had surrendered the Civil War, a Union troop arrived in remote Galveston, Texas, to enforce President Lincoln’s order of emancipation. (The actual document is housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.) The first anniversary of this long awaited triumph inspired community celebrations in eastern Texas where many formerly enslaved people had settled. This historic date continues to be a joyful celebration of freedom across the land. Beginning with Texas in 1980, Washington, D.C. and all but 3 states (Hawaii, North Dakota and South Dakota) have made Juneteenth an official holiday.

A landmark case heard at the Supreme Court in 1954 was a victory for a Maryland-born lawyer and for the African American children of this country. Before this historic national event however, Thurgood Marshal was the lawyer successfully representing the Colored Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, led by Annapolitan Philip Brown, for equal pay in 1938 . A true champion for equal education for children regardless of race, Marshall’s statue stands in Annapolis . Judge Marshall was eventually appointed by President Lyndon Johnson as the first African American to serve as a Supreme Court justice himself in 1967.

Find more many more historic events to delve into African American history.

Historic Figures
There are so many amazing individuals that triumphed despite, or sometimes because of, prejudice against their skin color, but start with a few to inspire yourselves to look for more artists, scientists, athletes, entertainers, and political change makers.

Black inventors usually get attention at school in February, but your family can make this a year-round study. Lonnie George Johnson is particularly relevant if you play with a Super Soaker this summer.

Learn about the Maryland-born explorer, Matthew Henson, who accompanied Walter E. Peary on artic expeditions starting in 1890. Their trips sponsored by the National Geographic Society, Peary and Henson are featured in the society’s museum in Washington, D.C. 

If anyone in your family is interested in the game of chess, there may be interest in the story of a 17-year-old chess player from Frederick, Maryland. Born in 1855, Theophilus Thompson  was said to have had phenomenal talent. Although another Theophilus Thompson later lived in Anne Arundel County, the chess phenom unfortunately suffered from tuberculosis and died at the age of twenty-six . A wind-powered statue entitled “An Elusive Kinetic Portrait” is on display at the Art Walk on Carroll Creek, 100 South East Street, Frederick, as a tribute to the young chess master.

Historic Places
There are many nearby places that your family can visit when COVID-19 allows. If you can’t go in person, explore online information about some local places in African American history. Annapolis was the site of slave auctions, including a native of the Gambia who arrived in 1767. His descendent placed him in a historic novel Roots: the Saga of an American Family which inspired an annual festival of African Heritage here. The Kunta Kinte  – Alex Haley Memorial is located at Annapolis City Dock.

The Banneker-Douglass Museum, housed in a preserved African American church in Annapolis, has an exhibit that includes the story of Harriet Tubman, but until the museum reopens, learn about “The Moses of Her People”  online and plan a visit to Cambridge when you can.

Discover Josiah Henson, whose cabin in Bethesda inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book that President Lincoln credited with beginning the war to end slavery in the U.S.

Earning its place in history as the first secondary school in the county for African American students, from 1933 until desegregation, the Wiley H. Bates High School is now the Wiley H. Bates Legacy Center which preserves not only the history of the philanthropist whose name is on the building, but showcases the lives of more ordinary folks. Incidentally, Mr. Bates was elected as an alderman on the City Council in 1897. In this role he successfully presented a petition from the African American community that the City provide a school for their children.

Education is the answer. Enjoy your summer of discovery!

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist with degrees in Early Childhood Education, Counseling, and Human Development. Workshops for parents, teachers, and childcare professionals can be found at: drdebbiewood.com.

Click here for more parenting advice by Debbie Wood.

What do you think? Email your comments or questions to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com

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