Still I Rise: How Black History is being taught in Arkansas

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock teaches Black history in central Arkansas...
The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock teaches Black history in central Arkansas and the state.(Source: KAIT-TV)
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 1:28 PM CST
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - There is a lot of African American History in Arkansas and a museum in Little Rock is working to highlight that history.

The Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is a state-funded museum for African American history. We went there to learn more about the history of Black History Month in Arkansas and the country.

“The history of Black History Month, I always have to start off with the father of Black History Month, who was Carter G. Woodson,” museum curator Courtney Bradford said.

A month, Bradford said, that started as just a week.

“And so he, along with his organization titled the Association of the Study of Negro Life, announced in 1926 there will be a Negro History Week for the very first time,” Bradford said.

That week coincided with the birthdays of two individuals to the African-American History, President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.

“So with that, he wanted to celebrate not only those two individuals but to also have people go deeper into finding those little-known black history facts,” Bradford said.

In the 1960s, students at schools across the country started to call for a month designated to celebrate Black History.

“We see at Kent State in 1969, we see black teachers and the united black students kind of push and say, hey, we want a Black History Month Celebration,” Bradford said.

She said that President Gerald Ford spoke about Black History Month during the Bicentennial in 1976.

“Encouraging people to go out and to learn more about African Americans, their endeavors, and their achievements.”

Celebrations and commemorations have continued to grow over the years, and the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center is working to preserve and tell the history.

“I’m often seeking things that are linked to the African American community at large, not just here in the Central Arkansas area, but across the state,” Bradford said.

Bradford sees Black History Month celebrations growing over the next several years, just like other holidays such as the recently federally recognized holiday, Juneteenth.

“I honestly think Black History Month is going to be one of the largest celebrations in 10 to 15 years from now,” Bradford said. “It will be a huge celebration, and it will mean so much more to not only people in the South but in our country.”

The museum is located on a street in Little Rock that is important to African Americans, which is 9th Street.

“It’s amazing that we get to be on this street, where black businesses and homes flourished, absolutely flourished,” Bradford said.

She stresses this museum is a place where everyone can learn more about African American History, no matter white or black.

“This is not just my history, this is your history. This is your history, and not to be ashamed about it,” Bradford said.

Because Bradford says, if we all can learn from our history, we can continue to move forward.

“Let’s not go back to those same actions that left us feeling unhappy, feeling traumatic, feeling oppressed, feeling unloved. Let’s just keep pushing forward,” Bradford said.

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