By Rev. John Jackson
The late Jegna Mari Evans said, “To identify the enemy is to free the mind of the people. Free the mind of the people. Speak to the mind of the people. Speak truth.”
And it was another Jegna of our people whom students in Nigeria gave the Yoruba name Omowale to, which means the “son has come home,” and the Arabs named “El Hajj Malik El Shabazz,” but who is better known to us as Malcolm X, who once said, “Only a fool would let his enemy teach his children.”
And finally in this celebration of Black History month, please allow me to let our late Jegna Carter G. Woodson speak from his seminal work, “The Mis-Education of The Negro.” In this classic Woodson wrote, “The education of the Negroes, then, the most important thing in the uplift of the Negroes, is almost entirely in the hands of those who have enslaved them and now segregate them.”
First of all, let me be clear, Black teachers and Black educators have always had the content competency to educate our own children. We have NEVER lacked the ability and the competency to properly educate our own children and people.
We did not forcibly come to these shores with what the Latins call a “Tabula rasa,” or blank slate of our minds. We brought with us expertise in various disciplines that our oppressors used to build this very nation without having to pay suitable wages for because they used their military might to force it from us.
We have always had master teachers who could teach our children. In fact, even a cursory examination of our sojourn in this land of our sorrows will reveal African people who educated our people in some of the most difficult and dangerous circumstances.
There were the old Rosenwald schools of the early 20th century in the South, where Black educators and Black teachers developed Black children to achieve the highest of standards. The Jewish Philanthropist Julius Rosenwald gave seed money for over 5,000 schools throughout the South, but it was Black people and in particular Black churches that raised over 4.7 million dollars to build and furnish these schools that had Black principals and Black teachers who taught and inspired Black children to become the best version of themselves possible.
We have always been the best teachers of our children. And I have to add that it was Black churches that led the way in educating our children and people by birthing many of our
In 1865 what eventually became known as Virginia Union University was founded in the basement of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Richmond, VA.
Rust College was founded in Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church in 1866.
In 1867, Morehouse College was founded in the basement of the Springfield Baptist Church.
In 1867, Howard University was founded in the 1st Congregational Church of Washington, D.C.
In 1872, Paul Quinn College was founded in the Metropolitan A.M.E. Church in Austin, Texas.
These are just to name a few that demonstrate that Black people and Black churches have always been at the forefront of educating our own children. We have the people with content competency and the cultural memory to help enable and prepare Black children to not only master the disciplines but understand themselves from their own cultural center.
However one of the sad realities we face today is that far too many people have given up on our people and given over the education of our children to those who belong to the race of those who oppress us, as Woodson stated in the quote referenced above.
A sad story that my Pastor Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., recounted to me years ago illustrates the quotes of both Carter G. Woodson and Malcolm X.
Dr. Wright said he sat with Black people tasked with the responsibility of hiring a principal for a local school on the South Side of Chicago. The Black people with the responsibility wanted to interview white candidates for the position of principal of a school full of Black children. Dr. Wright said that he had to interject by saying, “Do you think that Jewish people living in Skokie, Illinois, will ever entertain interviewing a Black person or any person other than a Jewish person to be the principal of a Jewish school? Then why are we even thinking about anybody other than a Black person to be over the education of our children?”
Beloved, we have always had master teachers to teach our children. We have never lacked master teachers who are Black, Never!
In one of his last speeches called the “Wither Now” speech in 1961, W.E.B. Dubois warned that leaving the education of our children to people outside our race would lead to our children leaving school altogether and giving up on school education.
Zora Neale Hurston critiqued the Brown vs. Board of Education decision, pointing out that sending our children to white schools would first of all cause the collapse of our schools and, second, we would lose our master teachers because white schools would not hire them and, finally, it would do irreparable harm to our children. And she was right.
Let me leave you with a quote from master teacher and psychologist the late Asa Hilliard who said, “I have never encountered any children in any group who are not geniuses. There is no mystery on how to teach them. The first thing you do is treat them like human beings, and the second thing you do is love them.”
Loving our children means putting their education in the hands of our people who happen to be the ones who taught Europeans during the classical African periods of history.
There are always master teachers, educators, administrators and leaders in education who are Black and who possess content competency and cultural memory who can educate our children. Paul said, “Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” Free your mind today.