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Middle Schoolers Challenged to Explore Black History

Throughout the month of February, the Middle School held weekly challenges to encourage students to explore and learn more about Black history. Organized by Head Middle School Librarian Stasha Gibbs and the Head of the Middle School World Languages Department Jody Christophe, these challenges pushed students to dig deeper into American history to find Black leaders, heroes, inventors, and artists who helped to transform the nation.  

The month kicked off with a video from the National Museum of African American History and Culture titled A People's Journey - A Nations Story.  Students were asked to list as many Black historical and famous figures as they could name from the video. The video can be found here if you want to test your own knowledge.  

During the second week, students explored Black poetry. Provided with links to recitations of poems by Amanda GormanSamuel Getachew, and Lucille Clifton, students were first tasked with watching and listening to Black poetry. Then they were encouraged to explore and read more from poets like Elizabeth AlexanderMaya AngelouGwendolyn BrooksLangston HughesNikki GiovanniRita DovePaul Laurence Dunbar, and Parneshia Jones. Finally, students were challenged to either select a poem by a Black poet or to write an original poem inspired by Black Lives Movement and record themselves reciting it. The recitations of four students can be found here.  

The third challenge gave students an option to either learn more about Black inventors and how their work impacted American life or honor the role and achievements of unsung Black heroes in United States history. In both cases, they were to create a short video to teach their classmates about what they learned.  

For the last week of Black History Month, middle schoolers were challenged with learning more about McDonogh School’s history. They explored the McDonogh Project at Lafayette College, which focuses on the lives of David Kinney and Washington Watts, who had been enslaved by John McDonogh. Then they learned more about McDonogh’s first Black student, John Milton Belcher III. After some reflection, students were asked to think about the questions they would have for these men about their lives and what their experiences tell us about both McDonogh and America’s history.