Elementary School Misconceptions From Black History Month

History Lesson: African Americans were forced to sit in the back of public buses, while whites sat up front.

My 9-year old confusion: All the cool kids sit in the back of the bus.  That’s where you want to sit.  Why was that bad?

History Lesson: The Lincoln-Douglas Debates were famous debates before the Civil War.  The two candidates argued about the issue of slavery.  Abraham Lincoln won the debates and was elected.

My 9-year old confusion: If blacks were slaves before the Civil War, why could a black man run for President?  Elements of confusion here:

  1. Not understanding that the Lincoln-Douglas debates were for an Illinois senate seat, not the Presidency.
  2. Confusing Stephen A. Douglas with Frederick Douglass (who was the Douglass we heard much more about than Stephen A.).

History Lesson: Civil rights protestors organized “sit-ins” at segregated lunch counters.

My 9-year old imagination: black men and women having “lock-ins” at restaurants, where they slept there overnight in sleeping bags on the floor, the way I got to do sometimes at the YMCA.  Again, seemed like fun.

2 thoughts on “Elementary School Misconceptions From Black History Month

  1. Matt

    History Lesson: Thurgood Marshall was the first African-American on the supreme court.

    My 9-year old confusion: Thinking that this Marshall (who was black) was somehow related to Supreme Court Justice John Marshall (who was white).

    History Lesson: Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens were famous black athletes who helped break the color barrier in sports.

    My 9-year old confusion: Thinking that all famous black athletes back then had to have names that could be both boys and girls names.

    History Lesson: Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape the south via the underground railroad.

    My 9-year old confusion: Slaves escaped from the south via the subway.

    1. nmirra Post author

      Ah yes, how can we forget the mysterious Underground Railroad. Growing up in Tacoma, WA, I did not know what a subway was. So I envisioned a sort of slow, quiet roller coaster track hidden a couple feet under ground.


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