Though February is already a busy holiday month with celebrations of both Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras, it is also Black History Month and a time we can really use to educate our children about the great African-American leaders in our community and around the world. This year I want to encourage you to not only teach your kids about black history in America but about everyone from ancient African rulers to modern-day history makers in our own state. Obviously, slavery and the Civil Rights Movement are both key pieces of the story, but there is much more richness and diversity to be told in regards to black history. Below you will find some useful Black History Month in Baton Rouge community resources.
Many recommend two different approaches to teach Black History Month. First, beginning with teaching about pre-historic South Africa or early African Kingdoms to show the true depth and beauty of blackness. Or by starting in the present-day and moving backward in time, introducing children to healthy, relevant, modern examples of black leaders before moving through slavery and then back to Africa.
Clearly, Louisiana has a deep background in regard to slavery and civil rights, and it’s extremely, extremely important that we educate our kids about these periods of our history. Our children need to learn from our past so we do not repeat the same mistakes, and they need to develop honor and respect for the many people who overcame seemingly insurmountable odds and helped make things better.
For example, did you know that the first bus boycott was held right here in Baton Rouge by a group of black citizens fighting the segregated seating system? And what about Ruby Bridges, the first African-American student to attend an all-white public school in the American South, just a few miles below us in New Orleans?
But in addition to those lessons, let’s also include stories of local black artists, inventors, and leaders who have contributed to the greatness of our community and our world. Teach about ancient African rulers who managed thriving economies and cultures like Mana Masu of West Africa. And look at civilizations like the Songhai Empire or Mali Empire.
We can celebrate Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King, Jr., but let’s also celebrate Booker T. Washington and Justice Thurgood Marshall. Let’s teach about local heroes like Gus Young and also Leonard Julien. Explore lessons on people like Madame C.J. Walker– a daughter of former slaves who went on to become an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the first female self-made millionaire.
We can celebrate all that black history can teach us and our children, and carry it on through every other month of the year. To help us, I’ve compiled a list of events and local resources that we can use to both celebrate and educate ourselves and our kids about the richness and diversity of African-American history. This list is not exhaustive, but we hope you find it helpful. If you know of any events or resources not listed below, please email us here!
Photo credit: Whitney Plantation
Black History Month in Baton Rouge – Community Resources:
The River Road African-American Museum in Donaldsonville offers private, guided tours for individuals and groups. For twenty-two years this hidden gem has served as a resource for the people of our community containing items such as historical documents, books, rare photographs, newspaper ads for runaway slaves, sketches of inventors, and information on politicians, soldiers, artisans, and entrepreneurs. Whether you are a home school mom, in a co-op, a teacher, or church director, this museum is happy to help guide and educate you on local, rural black history of our area for only $10 per person. Appointments for these tours can be scheduled online or by contacting them at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 225.474.5553.
The Odell S. Williams Now and Then Museum of African-American History was founded in 2001 on South Blvd. as an outgrowth of the congregation’s commitment to promote and educate people about the achievements of African- Americans. It features the following exhibits: art work of local black artists, a collection of rural Louisiana artifacts, a collection of inventions, a historic poster collection, and a walking trail that illustrates art and history. Currently, hours vary. Please check the Facebook page for updates!
The Whitney Plantation has gained media exposure for being the first and only museum on slavery. Originally known as Habitation Haydel, it is located on River Road in Wallace, Louisiana. Your guide will lead you through the historic Antioch Baptist Church built by former slaves, original outbuildings, slave quarters, and the circa 1790 Big House. You will walk through the oldest detached kitchen in Louisiana and learn about the Haydel family and their workforce of over 100 slaves. To purchase tickets in advance, please call the Visitor Center at 225.265.3300 or purchase online. In addition to the tour, their website also offers many articles can be used to educate your kids or students about the slave trade nationally and locally.
They blazed many trails. Now retrace their footsteps.
Walk the streets where jazz was born. Learn about America’s first black governor. Hear how enslaved blacks fled the plantations to fight for the Union army. And how one man’s refusal to move from his seat on a train led to a long struggle against segregation and the eventual triumph of the Civil Rights movement. It all happened right here, in a place like no other. Louisiana.
The East BRP Library system has a digital archive full of photographs (with descriptions) pertaining to Black History. Check it out here.
Black History Month in Baton Rouge Events:
Social Distance Scotland Saturdays for Black History Month Feb 27th
This Social Distance Scotland Saturdays will begin at 1 pm and end at 4 pm. They plan to have speakers, talent, or special event groups involved to celebrate Black History Month. Located at the Scotlandville Plaza, The Open Market serves as a catalyst for the cultural, historical, and economic growth of the Scotlandville Community. They showcase the very best of the North Baton Rouge area.
West Baton Rouge Museum will host several other Black History events including a film series and lunchtime lectures. More information at their website.
LPB is proud to celebrate Black History!
LPB will bring you a lineup of films and moments, memories and people in Black history that inspire – learn more here.
Suggested Reading Lists:
And check these out, too:
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya
Sundiata : An Epic of Old Mali
The Pot of Wisdom: Ananse Stories
Mansa Musa : The Lion of Mali
A Kids Guide to African American History
Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride
I am Jackie Robinson
I am Martin Luther King, Jr.
I am Rosa Parks
The Story of Ruby Bridges
Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears: A West African Tale
African Princess: The Amazing Lives of Africa’s Royal Women