Malcolm X: Importance of Afro-American History in Today’s Education

The 50th anniversary of the assassination of Malcolm X is February 21st. I feel it’s important to reignite some of the views of a man who was committed to shedding light on the condition of the African man placed in western society. More importantly, Malcolm wanted to provide the tools and knowledge to ensure that oppression was not a dynamic of our future. A heritage of the African people exists and is not just based on a westernized history that materialized post slavery but more accurately the history that spans back to our early civilization in Africa and other Eastern continents.

Although most feel compelled to discuss Malcolm X because of this commercialized, culturally signified month labeled “black history”, I choose rather to acknowledge a day that stunted the growth of our black communities, forcing a halt in our momentum that to this day has yet to be refueled.

With the OAAU (Organization for African American Unity) Malcolm was on the cusp of providing the motivation, tools and backing to begin what he called “the dark rise” in this nation. Sadly, not since Malcolm X has one man had the courage to risk his place in society, jeopardize forfeiting his materialistic gains or risk his life for the betterment of his people.

Malcolm’s focus was to spread knowledge of the past and he also understood how essential providing an understanding of the present would prepare our people for greatness in the future. “The Afro-American has been kept crippled in this society because of our complete lack of knowledge concerning the past.” Malcolm stated in a speech given at the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem, NY in 1965 several weeks prior to his assassination (Malcolm X 1988).

It is common knowledge that the educational system today does not enforce a curriculum that champions all children. Unfortunately educators are complacent with what is deemed the status quo of only providing children a diluted education; an education that is not rich in research but rather specific facts provided by a tailored system that is drilled into the minds of our children. They are encouraged to memorize these tailored facts and only regurgitate them at the end of the school year through testing.

In today’s mainstream educational forums the term “black studies” sparks apprehension not only by many educational theorist but also by educational scholars alike. The concept is foreign and often viewed as a militant antagonistically based concept, at best. This concept is automatically shunned upon in just about all institutions of education especially those predominantly occupied by our young black and brown children.

The idea of arming the young minds of black and brown children with the knowledge of their own history, which is inevitably their own greatness, has been a tool revoked in order to oppress our people for hundreds of years and sadly we are abetting in this practice today.

If we are unaware of our struggle through the years and void of a basic understanding of the sacrifices and more importantly the major accomplishments that our ancestors have made – then we are doomed. We will not only repeat the mistakes of the past but also more critically be void of any respect for what our people have endured to get us to this point. As we continue to strive for equality in so many areas in society today this knowledge is no longer a novelty but a criticality.

As children of the African diaspora there should be a basic need to become familiar with our culture in some facet. This familiarity and knowledge will spark a pride and self-respect, which breeds a new generation that not only will feel compelled to stay localized in their communities and continue to share that knowledge (based on a inherent love for their people) but in turn foster a sense of community. It is paramount that we begin to educate our children on who they are and what bright futures they can have as black people in society. That future should be fueled by knowledge of the impressions that blacks have made in history through education, architecture and mathematics.

Today’s educational curriculum is based on governmental standards, which not only dictate the course of study but also limits the educational nourishment needed with watered down versions of education. These standards do not prepare students to become free thinkers. This generation of children are not being taught the skills to enable them to problem solve, communicate or articulate the information that they are digesting and provide their own personal views.

As educators we have found ourselves using the excuse that these are the standards set by the government and educational system, which regulates and dictates the educational values in schools today. Our complacency suggests that these limitations that are stringently placed on the guidelines of education are accepted.

Our youth need to be aware of the sacrifices that their ancestors made; they need to have an extensive knowledge of Dubois, Douglas, Woodson, Wright, and Garvey et al. These names should become synonymous with Columbus, Lincoln and Twain, if not more prevalent in their day-to-day knowledge. We need to champion our youth for greatness by exposing them to the information about their history and the greatness they possess by being direct descendants of African astrologists, archeologists, warriors and intellectuals whose contributions began prior to us being brought to the Western world.

A resurgence of a group of young individual whose focus is to research and seek out knowledge must be nurtured. Our children should not only have the skill to memorize facts and take exams but should have the ability to articulate their views on topics that affect the world and their people specifically. Our youth should be armed with the tools of sentence structure, tense and a vast vocabulary. All these things should become second nature and our children should be taught the skill of conversation and expression both verbal and written.

The life of a great man was extinguished on February 21, 1965. A man who should have been able to carry on the important work which he was engaged. It is truly a somber day remembering the great man that Malcolm X was, but its an even sadder day to realize that 50 years later no one has had the courage to carry an entire race on his shoulders as Malcolm X did with pride and commitment.


 

Reading:

1988,  Malcolm X on Afro-American History (Speech to meeting of Organization of Afro-American Unity January 24, 1965), Pathfinder Press

 

 

 

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