A Look at Local Civil Rights History


By Lindsey Banks

The Marian Cheek Jackson Center is making available a free virtual curriculum to teach local students about the civil rights history of the community’s historically Black neighborhoods.

In 2012, the center, a nonprofit dedicated to “honoring, renewing and building community in the historic Northside and Pine Knolls” areas“ launched its Learning Across Generations program in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the center now has converted the program to an online format.

The material in the program, comprised of six lessons and three virtual workshops, is designed for students, kindergarten through 12th grade, and features the struggle of residents of Northside, said Aisha Booze-hall, a senior fellow at the center.

“The LAG curriculum is inspired and impacted by a group of senior educators who have spent their lives committed to the teaching and telling of their life histories,” Booze-hall said. “They bring history alive for students and proudly pass on the tradition of Northside through shared memories. Through this work, the traditions are easily passed from generation to generation.”

The curriculum, largely created by Andrea Wuerth, originally was developed in response to several local requests from community members for more Black history education inside the classroom, she said. The Jackson Center responded with a program designed to teach students about the grit and determination needed to make change within Northside and beyond.

Each of the three lessons covers a different aspect of local history, including stories from Northside community storybooks, oral histories and interactive activities, Booze-hall said. The lessons are designed to be self-paced so students can work with a teacher or parent.

“COVID has shifted the focus on our work from being directly in the classroom to attending virtual classrooms,” Booze-hall said. “At the core, the work is still the same. We work to ensure that students know about the power that surrounds them. At the end of the day, the work might look a little different, but the outcome and the feeling is the same.”

The program’s material was created by an education team that included Booze-hall, Education and Youth Specialist Brentton Harrison and Events and Projects Manager Phyllis Joyner. Harrison said he is excited for the online version of the program to start after the pause due to the pandemic.

“I am most looking forward to engaging students and them having their lives impacted by the stories of the Northside, Pine Knolls and Rogers-Eubanks neighborhoods, and how knowing your history can make a big difference in your life,” Harrison said.

The program emphasizes the importance of education inside and outside the classroom. Harrison said that this means taking a nontraditional approach with students so they can fully experience the untold history of the area.

“COVID has really impacted that because now we have to find even more unconventional ways to make the material accessible and engaging for students,” he said.

One of the virtual workshops helps students prepare to conduct their own oral history interviews with family members and create an online webpage mosaic showcasing their work. Another workshop uses drawing and movement to teach students the principles involved with the fight for local civil rights.

“Now everyone from kindergarten and beyond has a chance to access a small portion of local history through this work,” Booze-hall said. “As we say at the Jackson Center, ‘without the past you have no future.’ Knowing Black history is the essence of knowing how powerful and accomplished those around you are.”

The curriculum is now free to students and teachers in Chapel Hill, Carrboro, Orange County and surrounding schools. Pre-pandemic, it cost $150. For access to the virtual workshops, contact Booze-hall at aisha@jacksoncenter.info.

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