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STEM Mini-Grants | Unspoken Truths: American History Museum Travels to Hazen High School

May 4, 2022

On March 25, 2022, Hazen High School students engaged in the Traveling Unspoken Truths: American History Museum, featuring storyteller Delbert Richardson. The national award-winning museum educated students, educators, community members, and administrators on unspoken truths of American History including sections on Mother Africa, American Chattel Slavery, Jim Crow Era, and Still We Rise African American Inventors.

Delbert asked students to have adult conversations and created a safe space for students to share harmful stereotypes to facilitate a conversation about the division of racism and how these beliefs shape our perception which can cloud our critical thinking skills. Mr. Richardson continues to narrate that the negative stereotypes and perceptions get in the way of supporting and respecting one another in ways that everyone wants to be seen and heard.

Students were then given the chance to think critically about primary resources and artifacts being presented in the museum. One student noted, “The shackles were heavy…why would any think this is okay?”. The kinesthetic (hands on) approach to learning allowed African American students to identify with S.T.E.A.M inventions and inventors like PC hardware and Dr. Mark Dean.

Storytelling:

After gaining an authentic life experience in thinking critically about American History Delbert led students through his critical analysis. First stop is MOTHER AFRICA which is a showing of the great contributions that Africans have made through the world including a S.T.E.A.M wonder of the world, the pyramid. Students continue to learn about CHATTEL SLAVERY where human beings are considered property and are bought and sold. In this section one teacher was shocked to find out several modern-day business and universities benefited from slavery. Delbert noted that his ancestors used bravery, intelligence, persistence, and resistance to remain alive and allow him to share their stories. Then Mr. Richardson shared how the JIM CROW era created a racial caste system geared around white supremacy and that jails today are steeped in that history. The story continues with STILL WE RISE to empower all students to explore S.T.E.A.M role models that they identify with and have been written out of history.

Student questions for further investigation:

  • How are people still able to get away with covering up the truth when there is now so much evidence as to what happened?
  • How can I help spread awareness on the importance of looking at history through a multitude of sources?
  • What can be done to change for the better of myself to tell my own stories to others in the future?
  • When did race become a social construct?
  • How do I work against my bias to become better and break down the social constructs I’ve been raised in?

After attending this event:

  • 96% of students articulated one important new fact they learned
  • 97% of students noted one thing they will do differently as a result of their learning
  • 75% of students in indicated they had additional concerns or questions they wanted to explore further
  • 100% of African American students felt valued and seen

Students thoughts as a result of the event:

  • “It was really nice to learn history from a black person because all my history teachers growing up were white. I though the Egyptology was very interesting” – 9th grader
  • “Whenever someone tells me their story, just listen, until they say it is appropriate to talk.” – 12th grader
  • “A lot of stuff in black history is filtered…[and I need to] do research of my own race.” – 9th grader
  • “One thing I will do differently as a result of what I learned today is finding a variety of sources with different peoples’ perspectives of history.” – 10th grader
  • “I want to know as much information as possible about the unknown creations that African Americans had made/influenced [and] Why isn’t this history being taught more in other history or English classes?” – 11th grader

A bonus outcome of this event was that three generations of Richardson’s were proud to be representing their ancestors.

Thank you to GEAR UP Achievers for making this event possible! We hope to have Unspoken Truths: American History Museum visit again soon.

Written by Keith Peck