How do we teach kids about race? How do we begin racial reconciliation? Where do we even start? In a city (and country) where racial tensions run high, these questions are on the minds and hearts of many parents and educators.
Listening, learning, and educating yourself and your kids is the first step, and what better way to begin than in your own backyard?
Memphis is home to one of the largest Black populations in the country, and our city is full of Black history. In fact, the Memphis we know and love today was shaped by the sacrifices and contributions that the Black community has made throughout history.
Because our city played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement in the 50’s, 60’s, and even today; there is no shortage of voices and institutions that provide education, guidance, and wisdom right here in the Bluff City. Here are 4 of our favorites:
1. Alice Faye Duncan
Alice Faye Duncan is an award-winning author and Memphian who writes books for young readers, and speaks to both students and adults about literacy and writing. Her books include stories of Black artists and American History that are scarcely told. Her book, Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop, won the 2019 Coretta Scott Medal for illustrations. Alice is incredibly gifted, and her presence and voice in our city is important.
Here are a few ways to learn from Alice, and to help launch important conversations with kids:
We know that diversifying our children’s libraries has substantial positive effects on their view of themselves and others, helps them become more inclusive, and increases cultural understanding. From Honey Baby Sugar Child to Just Like Mama, Alice’s books are a beautiful place to start and should be staples on any kid’s bookshelf.
Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop is written from the perspective of a young girl named Lorraine who remembers what Memphis was like in 1968. She recalls the working conditions of the Memphis sanitation workers, the strike and march that began on the steps of Clayborn Temple, the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, and many other events. This book is a great for kids and adults alike because it not only teaches about monumental moments in Memphis’s history, but also helps the reader imagine the details of the events through eyes of a child who was shaped by them.
You’ll find free lesson plans for educators, writing prompts for kids, and information on everything going on with Alice.
If you want to be inspired, educated, and provided with ideas for conversations and resources for your kids, Alice’s instagram is a beautiful place to begin.
2. The Memphis 13
In 1961, 13 first graders became the first Black students to attend historically, all-white schools in Memphis. While there was very little media or news coverage at the time, the story of the Memphis 13 was told in an award-winning documentary by Director and Memphian Daniel Kiel. Kiel interviewed the 13 brave first graders (who are now adults) and many family members as well.
Here’s how you can learn more:
The 35-minute video is offered online for free, and it’s a beautiful way for kids to learn about what segregation and integration looked like in the 60’s.
The purpose of this project is to tell the story and to facilitate discussion about “inclusion, tolerance, and social change.” This website includes great resources for talking to kids about the documentary, and to consider what the 60s would have been like for people of color. This includes a discussion guide that is great for classrooms, related articles, and even a bibliography.
3. A Tour of Possibilities
Looking for a great resource for the whole family? A Tour of Possibilities will guide you along a caravan tour where you can ride in your own vehicle and listen to the tour through your own speakers. You will visit many Memphis staples like the Slave Haven Underground Museum, Clayborn Temple, LeMoyne Owen College, and much more.
This tour will enlighten you about much of the African American history and culture that lies within Memphis’ foundation and entertain along the way. The experience is the perfect way to involve everyone in the family the the discussion about the history of our city, the racial injustices and inequality, and how we can help.
You can also read more about this tour and Carolyn Micheal-Banks, its founder, here.
4. National Civil Rights Museum
The very place where Martin Luther King was murdered is now a museum in Memphis full of resources for kids AND adults of all ages. Check out their website to learn about all of them, but here are a few we love:
Dory Lerner, the museum’s K-12 Educator, facilitates virtual book readings and demonstrations while introducing principles like nonviolence and peace, friendships, and activism. Dory says her goal is “to realize the potential in young listeners to help make the world a better place.”
This eLearning activity is designed for students to learn about the 1960 sit-ins and to virtually walk in the protesters shoes.
The 1955-57 Montgomery Bus Boycott protested the unfair treatment of African Americans on buses in Montgomery, Alabama. From the perspective of an investigative newspaper reporter, students can experience what a typical bus ride was like for Black Americans in Montgomery during the 50s.
Let us know what other Memphis resources for kids you love in the comments. We know our city is full of them!