February 20, 2014

Schools Across DC Celebrate Black History Month 

Schools Across DC Celebrate Black History Month

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Throughout the city, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) is honoring and celebrating Black History Month this month with a variety of events, classes, screenings and other activities at schools.

“Black History Month gives us time to reflect, celebrate and honor the achievements of African Americans across the city and across the world,” said DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson. “The history of DCPS is rooted in the accomplishments of many African Americans who helped make this city a better place.”

Examples of Black History Month events at happening this week:

  • At J.O. Wilson Elementary in Ward 6, educators are playing a different song/piece of music by African-American artists each morning. On Feb. 28, the school will celebrate the month with a program that examines black history with staff and students performing as "wax museum" actors, and includes a choir of students and staff.

  • At Deal Middle School in Ward 3, the school is hosting a speech and drama competition on Feb. 27 centered around African-American history.

  • At Browne Education Campus in Ward 5, students will embark on a historical journey from Africa to present day on Feb. 24.

  • During the week of Feb. 23, Seaton Elementary School in Ward 6 will celebrate Black History Month with a student assembly, after-school food celebration, and daily African-American history trivia. On Wednesday, Feb. 26, students will join together to recognize the talents and contributions of African Americans throughout history using dance, music, poems and art.

  • During Black History Month at Watkins Elementary School in Ward 6, the teachers and students have been participating in a Hallway Decorating Contest. The contest celebrates the achievements of African American leaders, historical figures, artists, and others. Hallways have highlighted academic standards that are also being taught in Social Studies and Literacy classes.

  • Barnard Elementary School in Ward 1 is hosting its first-ever wax museum in honor of Black History Month on Feb. 28. Students from pre-K 3 to Grade 5 will portray African Americans whose accomplishments have helped change the country and the world. Classroom teachers will guide students in researching and discussing the lives of these African Americans to explore their hopes and dreams, as well as their struggles and how they overcame them.

  • McKinley Education Campus in Ward 5 is hosting a monthlong series of events for students, including movie screenings, debates, a poetry slam and guest speakers.

  • Walker Jones Education Campus in Ward 5 kicked off a month of celebration including a Literature and Storytelling Week, Science & Math Week, History & Culture Week and Performing Arts & Film Week. The school is hosting a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Pride Day, Black History Trivia Bowl and Black Film Festival. The school is hosting a Black History Program on Feb. 26.

  • Hardy Middle School in Ward 2 is hosting an assembly on Feb. 27 with Donald M. Temple, a special guest speaker. The assembly will feature students performing traditional African dances. The school’s jazz band will also perform, among other presentations. Throughout the month, Hardy has highlighted moments in African-American history during morning announcements.

  • Kramer Middle School in Ward 8 is celebrating and recognizing Black History Month with a daily Black History Month question, a quiz bowl, poetry and dress up days, a living museum day, and other events.

  • Wilson High School in Ward 3 has held a series of events and continues to host special events, including a poetry witing workshop with Poet Ambassadors, special guest speakers and movie screenings.

  • West Education Campus in Ward 4 has been sharing a Fact of the Day during morning announcements. Teachers have also given out a question of the week related to Black History Month, with a winner drawn every Wednesday.  There is also  a challenge for the entire school to name as many influential African Americans off a poster up in the school. The student who lists the most names will earn a $25 gift card to the book fair and be named “principal for the afternoon.”

DCPS has been a part of critical moments in African-American history. For example, one of the cases, Bolling v. Sharpe, that built the landmark 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown vs. Board of Education, which eventually led to school desegregation, was a local argument including what are now Browne and Sousa middle schools.  The argument was initiated in 1949 by parents of students at Browne Junior High School. DC Public Schools officially integrated in the fall of 1954 immediately following the May decision of Brown vs. Board of Education.

In addition, Cardozo Senior High School was the first Commercial Business High School in the United States for African American students.  The school, which opened in 1928, was named for Francis L. Cardozo who was a principal at Washington High School for Colored Students, housed in the old M Street HS Building (currently the Perry Building). Francis Cardozo introduced a business curriculum at old M Street under his tenure and this curriculum later became the basis for Cardozo Senior High School.

Many DCPS schools are named after famous African-American leaders. Charles Drew Elementary School is named after Charles Drew, a native Washingtonian and prominent surgeon and medical researcher known for his work with blood plasma. Drew is an alumnus of the Dunbar High School. Charles Houston, the namesake of Houston Elementary School in Ward 7, played a central role in nearly all civil rights cases in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. He was also the Dean of Howard University Law School and Litigation Director at the NAACP.

Other notable African-American DCPS alumni include:

  • Famed opera singer Denyce Graves who graduated from Duke Ellington School of the Arts;
  • Frederick Drew Gregory, one of the first African-American astronauts who worked for NASA, is a 1958 graduate of Anacostia Senior High School.
  • Billy Eckstine, a noted jazz musician, graduated from Armstrong Technical High School, which was the equivalent to McKinley Tech during school segregation.
  • Duke Ellington also attended Armstrong.
  • Marvin Gaye attended Cardozo Senior High School.
  • Edward William Brooke III (R-MA), the first African American to be popularly elected to the United States Senate, graduated from Dunbar Senior High School.

To attend a DCPS Black History Month event, call 202-535-1096.

Inside DCPS Highlights.


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