Saturday, March 1, 2014

When is White Men's History Month?

Yesterday was the last day of February, and thus the last day of Black History Month. Today begins Women's History Month, and then in April, we can finally return to discussing who really matters in America:

White men.

I realize I'm painting with a broad brush, but the fact remains that schools still teach white male narratives as Normal, but stories of people of color (POC) or women as Other.

Even Google has problems representing historic figures who aren't white men.
via Spark Movement

When we do remember the stories of black Americans, we confine their history to the abolition of slavery in the 1860s and the Civil Rights Movements in the 1960s. Absolutely we should study Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman. We should all know the names of Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. 

But the history of black Americans is greater than two decades worth of accomplishments. 

In school, we learn about Joseph Smith, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1830. But do our teachers mention Richard Allen, who founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816?

We read Emily Dickinson's poetry in English class, after skipping over Phillis Wheatley.

Everyone knows about Amelia Earhart's accomplishments, but what about Bessie Coleman's aviation record?

Until the history of black Americans, and the history of women, are fully integrated into our classrooms, we will continue to have a need for two months dedicated to their history.

This month, I encourage you to research not only women's history, but specifically the history of women of color (WOC). Found at the intersection of both racism and sexism, they are the most underrepresented. 

For bonus points, go beyond the history of famous people. Discover the lives of everyday women in different time periods and different geographic regions. American history is much richer than a list of presidents and wars!

What was your K-12 education like?
Did you escape the male white narrative?
Let me know in the comments!

*Disclaimer: My degree is in history, and I also minored in Women's and Gender Studies. My points on who is and is not studied in school are based on my public school classes, not counting my AP US History class. I certainly don't expect the average person to have the same sort of historical knowledge I acquired with my college degree!


  1. We definitely learned more about white men than anything else. I completely agree with everything you said in this blog post. It was very rare that we learned anything about women, and especially rare that we learned about women of color. As you said in your post, the majority of things we learned about men/women of color had to do with slavery. After that period, we kind of stopped learning about them. It's pretty sad that it's been 15 years since grade school when we started learning about this stuff, and my kids are going to be learning the exact same way I did. They definitely need to incorporate women and men/women of color more into the curriculum. As of right now, kids are only learning about a VERY small portion of our country's history.

    xo, Sarah
    Hustla, baby.

    1. While I don't think I would ever have the patience to home-school, I understand why parents do it. I want better for my future hypothetical children! Hopefully they'll love history as much as I do. I read tons of biographies in elementary school that first introduced me to famous women, famous POC, and famous WOC.

  2. I definitely learned more about white men in my history classes but I think that has a lot do with the time periods I was learning about. During most of these time periods women and people of color were repressed so they weren't 'making history' as much as white men were. I definitely remember learning about notable women and people of color as well.

    Now that things are increasingly becoming more equal between all groups, I think the demographics of people that will be taught in future history classes will also become more equal.

    That's the problem I have with the Google Doodle statistics as well. Most of their doodle feature historical figures and these figures are mostly white men because historically white men were scientists, inventors, etc back in the day so obviously stats are going to be skewed in their favor. I'm not saying it's right that white men have had more influence on our history but that's how it was back then and now that it's changing, I think the view of history will change as well.


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