📚 The History of "Black To School"
Because Everyone Needs an Origin Story!
It’s Almost Time!
Next week, Black To School is officially releasing our very first newsletter! 🎉
We’re so happy to celebrate Black History Month with this launch, and we can’t wait to highlight some of the lesser known contributions of Africans, and the African Diaspora, from the past to the present. We’ll share tools and resources for applying this knowledge in everyday ways. Our first issue, Black Is Wealth: Meet the Wealthiest Person Ever, will be released on Thursday, February 4th. In it, we explore our legacy of wealth and wealth building. As we gear up to launch this issue, we’re excited to share the inspiration behind Black To School.
“Enjoy this fast and fresh take on Black History. This info should be common knowledge. If Black To School has anything to say about it, it soon will be. Tune in and learn something new. Get the information you need to contribute something great.”
- Robin Walker, historian, teacher, and author of over a dozen books on Black history.
The Back Story
Chinwe Onyeagoro, one of the original Collective members, came together with three dedicated Black female designers, Ama Cobbina, Kristen Williams, and Taylor Thompson, to create Black To School. It all started last July with a simple idea - to make Black history, beyond slavery, common knowledge for all. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we all found ourselves encouraged by the interest in Black lives and stories, but we were also disappointed by the overwhelming focus on tragedy, suffering, and slavery as the defining narrative for Black people. We wanted to share something that captured the full impact of Black people on the world, so Black To School was born.
In the spirit of collaboration, we spent weeks on Zoom calls reflecting on how best to research and layout the newsletter’s unique content and coming up with a name. Originally, we were operating under, “Saturday School,” because (unsurprisingly) we’re not the first people to invest time and thought into uncovering the hidden pages of history. Many groups over the years have created special schools focused on teaching and preserving their culture, language, and history.
The “Saturday School” Movement
The Black community in the United Kingdom, led by Caribbean & African immigrants, created Saturday Schools in the 1970s in response to rampant racism and inequality. They were led by volunteers including parents, teachers, and concerned community members. Their focus was on teaching Pan African culture and history to offset the biased views that were taught in mainstream schools. At the height of this movement, there were hundreds of these Saturday Schools operating in the United Kingdom. This had a tremendously positive impact on the personal and educational outcomes of Black children across the United Kingdom. One of the most prominent examples of the power of the Saturday School model is Akala, who is an internationally celebrated philosopher, writer, and rapper.
The Caribbean & African community are not alone in understanding the incredible power of supplementary education. Saturday Schools, also known as “heritage schools,” are common among many immigrant groups including the Chinese, Hebrew, Polish, Russian, and Japanese communities. Check out this map of heritage language schools by State in the U.S, here. We owe a lot to the tradition of Saturday Schools in the Black community and across all cultures!
To stay true to both the academic rigor and community-based learning model of the Saturday School movement, we commit three things to you:
We will highlight Black history and resources that deserve a broader audience.
We will only feature verified content previously cited by authoritative sources.
We will keep it short and sweet to leave room for deeper exploration and more.
While we’re only at the beginning of Black To School, we see this newsletter as part of a continuum of efforts to share Black stories. Collectively, Black To School and these other initiatives help fill the gaps in our understanding of human knowledge and progress. Of course, we wouldn’t be where we are today without our partners, including the brilliant teams at ATCP.co and HiddenPages.
Finally, a HUGE thank you to all the initial readers who signed up pre-launch, your curiosity and trust mean the world to us.
We can’t wait to go “Black To School” with you all next week! 😉
- Ama, Chinwe, Kristen, Taylor, and the Black To School Community