Black history is American history. Full stop.

But somehow the narratives we’re taught often grossly misrepresent the history of black people in America. After all, a true and full history of the United States would require a reckoning of a not-so-great country, one that’s mired in hate and fear.

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The history of the civil rights movement is no different.

According to Jeanne Theoharis, distinguished professor of political science whose work focuses on Black Power movements, the history of the civil rights movement has become a fable.

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“It’s good guys, bad guys being Southern segregationists, and then basically a happy ending,” said Theoharis.

But there’s way more to the story. When it comes to actually grappling with black history in its entirety, America needs to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Here’s the thing: This misrepresentation of the civil rights movement directly impacts how we view freedom struggles of today, like Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee.

“Over the past few years, we’ve seen many people come out and and in fact, use Dr. King and use the civil rights movement against contemporary movements like Black Lives Matter, saying, ‘Why aren’t you more like Martin Luther King?’ And in my head, I think to myself, really, be careful what you wish for,” Theoharis told The Root.

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Afro-Cuban woman that was born and branded in New York. When León isn't actually creating cool videos, she's thinking of cool videos that she can create.

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DISCUSSION

aformerteacher
aformerteacher

How many ways is this correct? Many. Let me offer one. I taught African American history for 10 years. Did I spend a lot of time on MLK? No, and here’s why. Every student I ever had could likely write me 2 or 3 pages on King. They came into the class knowing all about him, great and vital as he was. Did they know about Ida B Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. Du Bois, A. Phillip Randolph, or Marcus Garvey? The myth that a fight for civil rights started with King and ended with the “official” end of legal segregation is strong, while the reality (as I think everyone who reads this site knows) the fight for rights began in 1619, when Africans were forcibly brought to North America. King did a lot, he didn’t do it all.

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