African American Histories: Curricular Resources and
Information to Build Teachers’ Background Knowledge
The ECEA believes that the histories of African Americans must be integral to day-to-day life in early childhood classrooms and curriculum throughout the year as well as during Black History Month. This means moving beyond the token representations of a few famous African Americans to an in-depth normalization of and in many cases, a rewriting of typically-told African American histories. This begins, not with stories of enslavement, but with the rich African past which impacts every aspect of our understandings from economics to art to sciences to mathematics to literature and poetry to music and movement to economics and government. This would include the realities of colonization and enslavement. Thus, the links at this site can be deeply enriched by also exploring other ECEA social justice links: “Africa’s Influence on the World’s Knowledge,” “Colonization and Enslavement,” and “A Short List of African American Contributors to the World.” The links below are offered as a beginning and are organized into: Resources to Build Teachers’ Knowledge and Teaching Resources.
Africa’s Influence on the World’s Knowledge
The European colonization of countries around the world led to a positioning of the world’s knowledge as anchored in European contributions, normalizing Whiteness as superior and leading to misrepresentations, stereotypes, degradation, and a general void of knowledge about the contributions of colonized peoples across history. Along the way, this resulted in the canon of predominantly White artists, authors, historians, scientists, mathematicians, inventors, etc. that continue to dominate curricula. Thus, learning about and incorporating the contributions of (and correcting histories typically presented about) colonized countries is essential to creating a more equitable educational process. The resources found at this link provide a beginning by focusing on the continent of Africa and its rich variety of countries, histories, and contributions. We urge educators to use these and other resources to broaden their own knowledge and then to create new curriculum in transformative ways. We hope this will provide an impetus for continuing to learn not only about the contributions of African countries but understanding missing and misrepresented histories around the world.
Anti-bias Teaching in Practice
In conjunction with the links focused on “Understanding Bias,” the sites provided here are offered to support educators in considering what anti-bias teaching might look like in classrooms. Specific examples are provided from schools, classrooms, and communities.
Conversations About Race for Adults
The ECEA believes that race talk is essential among teachers, administrators, and family members to be able to explore, better understand, and act to change individual and institutional racism in schools and society. Most difficult is identifying and acknowledging those subtle spaces where racism exists often only recognized by those who are its victims. These links are provided as possibilities for engaging in race talk that has the potential for change. We invite educators to read, view, reflect, talk and then use learning to engage in the difficult work of affecting change. This document is divided into three sections: Understanding Race and Racism; Discussing Whiteness; and Taking Steps Toward Change. Certainly there is a vast range of further resources including books and articles. We offer these sites as a beginning.
Famous African Americans: Black Genius
These resources are provided to support teachers in making African American history integral to classrooms every day in addition to a particular focus during Black History month. Recognizing that attention to famous Black Americans often comes primarily in a once-a-year focus on Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, this document provides resources to help you make African American contributions to science, mathematics, literature, music, dance, diplomacy, and so on a daily occurrence in your early childhood curricula. We share these links as jumping-off points. Clearly, this is only a beginning, an impetus as you seek further knowledge. As you scroll through this rich collection of resources, we invite you to envision ways to utilize them to transform your teaching and children’s learning, ensuring that African American contributions are normalized and no longer tokenized, romanticized, misrepresented, or omitted in the day-to-day life of early childhood classrooms.
Understanding Bias, Privilege, and Profiling
The links provided here were chosen to create openings for important discussions in university classrooms, school faculty meetings, and teacher study groups so that educators can examine and develop deeper understandings about how, why, and where biases exist. These are often difficult conversations but when we engage in them with respect for all voices around the table and a commitment to giving credence to voices often unheard, we can begin to move forward in creating anti-bias classrooms and schools.
Race Talk in the Early Childhood Classroom
The ECEA believes that conversations about race and racism and teaching racial histories can and must happen with our youngest children if they are to grow into adults who will create more equitable tomorrows. We know that young children can and do talk about race; they are victims of racism and they absorb (learn) and reappropriate it in many aspects of their lives without realizing it. These resources provide suggestions that address the discomfort and fear felt by some when engaging in race talk with young children. The sites can help educators relax and engage honestly, thoughtfully, and directly. In support of these sites, teachers will also want to educate themselves about racial histories and issues of race. To begin that journey, we recommend several another links on this website: “Conversations about Race for Adults,” and “Understanding Bias.” Finally, some of the sites at this link involve race conversations and lessons with older children. We urge educators to learn from each site and consider insights that might be transferable to your work with younger audiences.
Understanding Racism and Educational Institutions
Resources in this section are provided to open or deepen conversations about race and racism within our educational systems as we consider issues that are often difficult to acknowledge and negotiate. Each site could become the basis for a study group session or grade level faculty discussion. We encourage educators to browse through the links and consider how they might be useful in supporting growth in understanding the difficult concept of institutional racism with regard to the institutions we call schools.
Colonization and Enslavement
The typically taught history of African Americans begins with enslavement and focuses heavily on romanticized and/or oversimplified depictions of “slaves” and “slavery” followed quickly by the positive results of the Civil War, post war reconstruction, and the Civil Rights movement. The ECEA urges teachers to use resources provided at other links (“Africa’s Influence on the World’s Knowledge,” “African American Histories”) to transform curriculum at every grade level by starting the rich history of African and African contributions to what we have come to know as mainstream mathematics, science, art, music, dance, literature, language, etc. but rarely attributed to African and African American thought and invention. At the same time, we encourage attention to more accurate and honest versions of colonization and enslavement. Toward that end, this site offers a few initial resources in support of knowledge building for teachers and classroom teaching.