For the last several years, the Sampson County Chapter of the NC A&T State University Alumni Association has sponsored a poster contest in conjunction with Black History Month for Sampson County middle and high school students.
Fittingly, the 2017 National Black History Month theme will be “The Crisis in Black Education,” which was announced by the Association for the Study of African American Life and History(ASALH), founded by Harvard graduate Carter G. Woodson in 1915. This theme focuses “on the crucial role of education in the history of African Americans.”
Following the forced migration of enslaved Africans, the early history of blacks in America was one in which blacks were largely excluded from the educational world, starting in the days of slavery when it was unlawful for slaves to learn to read and write. And in North Carolina, there were no public schools for black children until after 1868. Later, in 1875, NC passed an amendment providing that “the children of the white race and the children of the colored race shall be taught in separate schools.” Going forward for nearly 100 years, the laws, policies and practices kept schools racially separated in NC well into the early 1970s.
Now, for those students who want more information about entering the 2017 Black History Month poster contest that is currently underway, please contact your school’s art teacher. Also, the NC A&T alumni group wants this poster contest to provide all students a unique opportunity to learn more about the myriad factors contributing to the crisis in black education, including the gap in black educational attainment and achievement, and the disparity in school discipline. Using this art project, students will design illustrations that inspire a love for learning and thirst for achievement.
Along with the poster contest for middle and high school students, the local A&T alumni hope to encourage the entire community in the coming days and weeks to be a part of this ongoing discussion and dialogue about the crisis in black education, from the board room to the pulpit. Further, addressing the crisis in black education will require collaboration. It must be a coordination of efforts, relying on total community involvement, with support coming from business, fraternal societies, schools, teachers, parents, and especially the church, which, historically, has played a key role in mobilizing community involvement.
Unfortunately, this crisis in black education has spilled over into a corresponding crisis in our community. The fact that blacks have above average rates of joblessness and incarceration, makes it critically important for our entire community to emphasize the importance of education as the key to improving the future of our black youth.
With education “the single most important job of the human race,” let’s make our 2017 Black History Month observance a time for courageous community conversation. I encourage everyone to become a part of this ongoing discussion, working to make sure we inspire a love of learning among our young people.
Larry Sutton is a retired teacher from Clinton High School.