As a U.S. history teacher at George Rogers Clark High School, Amy Madsen made a class suggestion, and it was granted at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year.
“I thought a black history class was in need,” said Madsen. “I suggested it. I had to go through a process, write out a course outline and they agreed wholeheartedly.”
Madsen has obtained her masters degree and is pursuing her doctorate in black history. In her third year teaching at the high school, she was able to put her main focus of education to good use.
Madsen said the students have responded really well to having the class.
“Instead of only having one month of celebrating black history, it’s like we get to celebrate it every day,” said student Robert Cornelius.
The class goes beyond the general history that is taught in regular courses.
“I wanted this class to not concentrate on slavery. I feel like classes can get stuck there. It’s very important to our history, but we wanted to go beyond that in this class,” said Madsen.
As for the curriculum for the first year of the black history class, the students have been reading several novels, including “The Color of Water” and watching educational movies, such as “A Raisin in the Sun.”
The students are also decorating doors around the school in celebration of Black History Month.
Madsen said she modeled the class after Darlene Clark Hine’s college course. Hine is a professor of African-American studies and history at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. Madsen also said she wants to eventually offer college credit for the class.
“Here at the school, we have what’s called dual credit classes. It’s when
a student can earn college credit through Bluegrass Community and Technical College as well as high school credit in a course. I have applied for this class to be a dual credit course, so we’re working on that,” she said.
Students also expressed what they’d like to learn in the course and what would be useful for the future of the class.
“I would like to learn more about different African-American subcultures and inventors,” said student Khamari Mundy. “It was actually a black man that got Thomas Edison’s light bulb to work.”
“Yeah. The inventors of peanut butter and the air conditioner, they were black,” said another student, Shawn Ford.
Madsen and the students both enjoy the aspect of the class in which they discover new and important people that were highly influential to black history.
Madsen also takes pride in the variety of students in the class.
“I think it’s really neat that this class has all races and genders interested,” she said.