Teaching Black history accurately in schools is a battle that is being played out nationwide, but the fight for Black history curriculums is nothing new.
Michael Hines’ book “A Worthy Piece of Work: The Untold Story of Madeline Morgan and the Fight for Black History in Schools” is the latest selection in our Black Voices Book Club Series.
The book traces a teacher’s efforts to bring Black history to Chicago classrooms.
Hines tells the story of Madeline Morgan, later Madeline Stratton Morris, who was a pioneering teacher in mid-century Chicago and was the force behind the creation of the city’s first African American history curriculum, which was adopted in the mid-1940s, said Hines.
Hines says he wanted to draw attention to Madeline Morgan, because the work of teachers and Black women activists often goes overlooked.
“The stories of teachers aren’t usually viewed as being historically significant. I think we tend to focus on politicians and philanthropists, businessmen and I would argue now probably tech moguls as the drivers of education in our school system,” said Hines. “And we leave out the men and women who are on the front lines and who I would argue have the most impact.”
Hines also draws comparisons between the fight happening today for Black history to be taught in schools and the battle nearly 100 years ago.
“I think that the recent battles over critical race theory are just the latest instance of us deciding whether we’re going to be a nation that can look honestly at its past or whether we want to continue to sweep things under the rug and push some stories to the margins,” Hines said. “And it’s really sad to see schools and districts passing actions to stop teachers from teaching and stop students from learning the reality of American history.”