Why Black Students Should Learn Black History

Norgenia Ahoussou, Denay Thompson/editor: Saffiatu Johnson

If you’re a sophomore this year, it’s very likely that you’ve seen African American Studies as a semester class on your SY 21-22 schedule. I was one of many tenth graders who were placed in the course, and I originally thought it would be just another confusing textbook with various stories about Harriet Tubman and racially-motivated hate crimes. After only a semester, I’d witnessed the true Black experience throughout the world, from the geological and ancestral origin of humans to the practice of slavery, to the influence of Black stereotypes on society. Ever heard of the “Mammy”?

This might come as a shock if you didn’t read the course offerings last school year, but African American Studies is generally a full-year class that is primarily available to 12th graders. Some would say that because of the rigourous and somewhat triggering curriculum delivered intricately by none other than the A. A Studies teacher, Mr. Jarrette, is too complex for younger audiences to understand, it should be a class offered to older audiences instead. And it’s true–the history of African-Americans is complex. It is harrowing, upsetting, and triggering, but we–especially the students of color inhabiting the predominantly Black PG County, should feel inclined towards learning about Black history.

Introducing Sankofa–the Infamous Concept Taught in A. A Studies

If you have been or are currently part of one of Mr. Jarrette’s African-American Studies classes, you’ve likely been met with the infamous Sankofa lesson. If you are familiar with the lesson and the accompanying film, then you’ve witnessed what should have been a symbolic representation of ignorance in the Black community.

If you haven’t seen, heard, or known of the film, here’s a short summary. A Black model, Mona, doing a photo shoot in Ghana is transported into the past as a slave, where she finds a connection with her history and the principle of Sankofa: you must connect to your roots in order to move forward.


The Connection to the Principle

Granted, there’s no 100% guarantee that learning about your history will set you up for riches–at least not in the literal sense. Unlearning the superficial things in life that corrupt the mind and opening it up to depth and meaning can invite prosperity. Confused? Let’s break it down: In order to turn over a new leaf, the lead in the movie endures the life of a slave, and as a result, her mind is detached from the adoption of white supremacy. In short, she had to unlearn the colonialism that clouded her judgment and realize tha