Friday, August 29, 2014

Ferguson, MO & Emmett Till: How Our Understanding of History Informs Our Present

In this morning’s Chicago Tribune, John Kass writes about the murder of Emmett Till in 1959 and the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. He writes, “If you’re white and you suggest the killing may have been justified, you could be denounced as a racist. If you’re black and you think the cop should be thrown in jail, you could be seen as seeking revenge for the sins of the past.” Perhaps oversimplified, perhaps not. But as he goes on to discuss his meeting with Emmett Till’s cousins, Wheeler Parker and Simeon Wright about the events of August 28, 1955, I was reminded that what happens in the past does not stay in the past. Times change, but what has been going on recently in Ferguson, the murder of Till, the OJ Simpson trial, and the summer race riots in Chicago in 1919 are all part of the same story.

So while I am intending this blog to go chronologically through American history, I hope you are bookmarking articles about Ferguson now so you can use them when you get to Black Migration and Civil Rights later in the year. And--if you are still interested in how to start off your school year, why not try a lesson right now that demonstrates to students how our understanding of the world has been shaped by history? Throughout the year, challenge students to make connections between events of the past and events that follow. It’s not nearly as simplistic as my little diagram below suggests, but emphasizing links such as these will help your students better understand history instead of just memorizing facts about history.


No comments:

Post a Comment