Virginia’s Black History Icons

Black History Month is right around the corner! Explore Virginia’s black history icons.

Growing up, the month of February was the time when we learned about Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Thurgood Marshall, and Harriet Tubman. While these important figures are icons, Black History Month is a great time to explore lesser-known figures from history and today. Virginia is home to many black history figures, some well-known and others not widely heard of, but all have contributed greatly to our culture.  eMediaVA has many collections, videos, and activities to include in your classroom plans.  Go beyond the textbook and add some hometown connections for your students!

Don’t know where to begin?  Here are a couple of my favorite eMediaVA videos with Virginia’s Black History Makers, and some other cool facts to share:

  1. John Punch.  Not the happiest of endings, but his story changed the course of history.  Punch was an enslaved African who attempted to escape to Maryland with two other European servants.  Upon capture, he was tried differently than the two European servants, establishing the first time in history this racial distinction was made during judgment. 
  1. Darrell Rose.  Got some musicians or artists in your classroom? Rose is a multi-talented artist and teacher who teaches the impact of African Music on what we hear today.
  1. Seatack, Virginia Beach. Did you know that Virginia Beach houses the oldest African American community in the United States? And what’s most astounding is that the original settlers of Seatack, back in the late 1700s, were free African Americans, not enslaved. They established their own farms and homes, owned businesses, and in 1908, built the first school for black children (Mother Church of Seatack) at what is now the Mt. Olive Baptist Church!
  1. The Birthplace of the Student Civil Rights Movement. Many of the struggles for Civil Rights among African American students began in Virginia, setting off a chain of events that would forever change American history. Discover the stories of the fascinating people that led the march in Virginia to educational progress. 
  1. Maggie Walker. Learn about Maggie Lena Walker, the first African American woman to found a bank in the United States in this digital short from Unladylike2020.
  1. Henrietta Lacks and Health Disparities in the Black Community. Learn about the historic reasons for distrust of the medical establishment in the Black community as well as why these huge health disparities still exist in this Origin of Everything episode.
  1. Recent Virginian Black History Makers: 
    1. Musicians: Trey Songz, Missy Elliott, Timberland, Pharrell Williams
    2. Athletes: Pernell Whitaker Sr. (boxing), Gabrielle Douglas (gymnastics), Allen Iverson (basketball), Moses Malone (basketball), Alonzo Mourning (basketball), Tiki Barber (football), Chandler Fenner (football)

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