“Too Black, Too Strong”, elementary students told they could not write about Malcolm X

Martin Luther King Jr & Malcolm X meet for the first and only time. Both would be assassinated in US government sanctioned CointelPro operations.

By Scotty Reid – Public school teachers in Flushing, New York told students last week that they could not write about Malcolm X for a school assignment because he was “violent” and “bad”.

One technology teacher at Public School 201 forbade 4th grade students from choosing Malcolm X from a list of black historical figures that included Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks. When students alerted their parents about the censorship, it set off a firestorm of criticism directed at the school, which has a 43% black student population.

One parent had her son write a report on Malcolm X anyway and then complained to Principal Rebecca Lozada stating, “I’m outraged, as a teacher, you’re imposing your opinion on a bunch of kids.” said Cleatress Brown.

Angel Minor whose son also attends the school but in a different class than the son of Cleatress Brown said she was “very upset” and that “It was disrespectful to our history,”

City Department of Education officials said they were looking into the censorship and spokesperson Devon Puglia said, “Malcolm X is a historical figure and a hero to many New Yorkers that we believe should be celebrated in our schools,”

Bobby Seal
Bobby Seal of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense inspects bags of food for distribution in a Black community.

Malcolm X who would later change his name to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz after making his Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca spent a good portion of his adult life in New York City where after leaving the Nation of Islam would start the Organization of Afro-American Unity and advocated that Black people practice Pan-Africanism, black self-determination and black self-defense. It was the teachings of Malcolm X on self-defense that partly inspired the founders of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Malcolm X’s views on race relations continued to evolve and change and before his death renounced his statements that white people were devils although he held firm to the belief that Black people must do for self and not be reliant on the US government or non-Black people to do things for them.

The whitewashing of Black history in America has long been a point of contention for conscious Blacks who have charged that too much credit is given to the NAACP and Dr. King for the small gains made for Black people during the civil rights era. They believe that without the threat of violence by groups who would no longer turn the other cheek in the face of state sanctioned racist white mob violence and police brutality, United States government officials would not have been moved to sit at the table and negotiate so-called civil rights and related legislation.

J Edgar Hoover
FBI director J Edgar Hoover’s CointelPro operations were exposed when activists broke into a FBI field office and stole thousands of records in 1971.

It is also important to remember that during this era, the FBI with help from local police agencies across the United States orchestrated a violent campaign against Black leaders and groups within the civil rights movement and the Black Liberation movement. CointelPro tactics used by FBI director J Edgar Hoover included media propaganda used to demonize and discredit Black leaders in corporate media, framing those in leadership positions with crimes they did not commit and for which many are still in prison to this day as political prisoners of war and state sponsored terrorism that included assassinations like the killing of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.

If the parents of Black children want their children to learn true Black history, they cannot expect or assume that it will be taught in America’s school system. Education in America can amount to indoctrination meant to turn Black children into African-Americans who will never grow up to be the leaders of the future movements that will challenge institutionalized racism and America’s continued imperialist policies that Malcolm X and others spoke out against when they were alive. Instead, what the system wants are more children aspiring to be the next Barack Obama or Clarence Thomas and not the next Malcolm X.

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2 Replies to ““Too Black, Too Strong”, elementary students told they could not write about Malcolm X”

  1. Long posting alert!! I received this from another #Bobcat who had a long and distinguished career in community service!! Kudos to Paul Hill!!

    February 18, 1970
    Written as a 23 year old Teachers Corp Intern, Lexington, Kty
    To: All George Washington Carver Teachers
    From: Paul; Hill, Jr, Teachers Corps
    Re: Criticism directed at me for use of Black heroes and sheroes for Black History display
    “A tree without roots cannot survive.”
    As an intern with the Teacher Corps my role has been defined as a change agent within the school system. At my own discretion, along with the guidance of Mrs. Cooper and Mr. Stewart, I try to seek out the primary needs of Carver children. Thus, I have established a Black History Week Program as a means to satisfy the needs of the children I serve.
    After observation and discussion I find many of the children, black and white, as well as a number of teachers, to be ignorant of black history and culture. The teaching of black history and the presentation of black leaders serve to make all students aware of the integrity and contributions of black people. For black students the program provides information and contributions of black people throughout American and global history; hopefully the historical focus will result in ethnic pride and increased self-esteem and self-actualization.
    Many Black Carver students are confused about their identity. They wake up in the morning and look in the mirror cursing their blackness and its existence. Ask them to draw a picture and most of will color themselves white. Anything that is black is associated with misery, evil and misery. Why must “whiteness” personify full stomachs, wealth, cleanliness and love? Why do black children tell me, “I wish I was white!” Why do black children resent being associated with Africa and its blackness? Self-actualization is based on knowing and liking one’s self. It’s not wishing your skin were white and hair straight. Why do so many of the young girls at Carver wear wigs? Because they’re ashamed of the blackness that won’t rub off and the hair that won’t blow with the wind.
    The “doll” Study research of psychologist Kenneth and Mamie Clark evidences what black children value in their environment. The majority choice the white dolls because they understand through observations and interactions what is and is not valued in their environment. As W.E.B. DuBois said in the first chapter of Souls of Black Folks, “what does it feel like to be a problem?” These children answered the question by selecting white dolls.
    Even though poverty is a common denominator among the children of both races, the numerators are dissimilar. The difference is the continued need for Black History week because black history and culture has not been included in the history books and curriculum. Black children continue being denied their history and culture. The difference is also being surrounded by white images and disproportionate wealth based on class and race, which have made Fayette County “the third richest county” in the United States. How can anyone appreciate one’s self when all you see are unemployed black man on street corners. What do you see downtown but a handful of black sales people with everyone else either unemployed or working for the master. So the question in the minds of many black American youths is, “why are Black people always the underdogs?” Through a process of elimination it boils down to color since little Rondell Black and Little Johnny White have the same inside and outside plumbing except for the external differences of color, features and hair.
    No, I am not a racist but an educator whose primary concern is holistic development of children and youth. My motto is “respect for individuality and conditions that promote the growth of human personality.” Based on a needs assessment of Carver children I have incorporated black history and language arts in the curriculum. The objectives of the curriculum are to provide a course of studies and environment conducive to the psychological, cognitive and spiritual growth and development of students.
    Black history week comes once a year for seven days-one week to make up for 351 years of forgotten and lost history and culture. The history of Black people did not start in 1619 when the first 20 African men and women arrived in James Town, Virginia; We did not arrive as slaves but as Africans with history and cultures that existed thousands of years prior to the advent of Europeans. However, since being kidnapped and brought to this country and enslaved and indentured there has been a systematic and institutionalized effort to eliminate our history and cultures from our minds. Many European descendants speak of their homelands with fond memories; Black peoples experience in this country was based on terrorism and the elimination of African history and cultural memories. My grandmother always said, “where you begin determines where you end.” Our story and history as a people did not begin with enslavement. You cannot start reading a book from the middle. Our beginnings on the continent of Africa must be told and understood by black and white people. No, I don’t have any pictures of white Americans posted because my course is strictly black history-180 school days a year. If every square inch of wall space were used for my displays it will not be enough to make up for the 352 years of forgotten, stolen and lost history and culture some youth of our forgotten heritage.
    Prior to the Father of Black history, Dr. Carter G. Woodson, creating Negro History Week, no voices or whispers sounded off about the all white lessons and displays prevalent throughout our educational system then and now. For the remainder of my internship I plan to use every available space of wall for visual displays of black Americans and their contributions to American and World History.
    As far as the range of personalities I used, I think everyone of them has contributed something relevant to American and World History. I think no judgment can be passed until their scholarship and work has been studied. Too many people have no frame of reference to criticize and judge historical and contemporary black leaders. The “white media” in the American tradition has slandered and provided misconceptions of historical and contemporary black leaders such as Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others.
    Do to criticisms directed at me for the use of Malcolm X in my visual displays I question my critics’ knowledge of the man and his work. Many white and, unfortunately, black people equate Malcolm X with the Klu Klux Klan. I am proud to say I had the honor of hearing and meeting Malcolm X as a high school senior in Cleveland, Ohio, April 3, 1964. I heard one of his last public speeches before he was assassinated on May 19, 1964. Malcolm X was a man of character who dedicated his short life of 39 years for the liberation of Black people.
    Malcolm X was not an advocate of violence. He loved his people and was pro-black. I am pro-black. Being pro-black does not mean I am anti-white; but it does mean I’m anti-racism, anti-dejure and anti-defacto segregation, anti-exploitation, anti-degradation, anti-oppression. I’m against anything that is immoral, unethical and unjust. I don’t judge a person according to the color of his/her skin, I judge a person according to their actions, deeds and intentions. I do not advocate violence-in fact; the violence I constantly refer to is the violence that resulted in the death of Malcolm X; and the violence from the bigotry, hatred and racism of white people from 1619 to the present that has been inflicted upon Black people.
    The importance of history and acknowledging our heroes and sheroes as understood by the Father of Negro History, Dr. Carter G. Woodson is captured in the following quote:
    “History is not everything, but it is a starting point. History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is a compass they use to find themselves on the map of human geography. It tells them where there they are but, more importantly, what they must be.” John Henrik Clarke

  2. Pay taxes and are still sold his-story. Our children are taught to hate themselves and we wonder why they are confused? We should own our history and stop making it a mystery to our children. What is our excuse? We have more tools than any other generation before us. Yet, we do not use them correctly effectively to reach our youth. We have a complex existence in this country and we should not let others dictate our past neither our future. Again, you are on target. Moreover, people should go to their local school board meetings and change the way history is taught–where they PAY taxes.

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