Today begins Black History Month – a chance for CPS students to study and celebrate the culture, legacy and achievements of African-Americans.

CPS is proud to be a part of this tradition. Throughout our District, schools bear the names of African-American scholars, artists and leaders – people whose talents and vision have helped shape our city and our nation.

Take Oscar DePriest Elementary, which was named for the first African-American elected to Congress after Reconstruction. Or Gwendolyn Brooks High School, which honors the acclaimed African-American poet whose work stemmed from her experiences growing up in Chicago’s Bronzeville community. And then there’s King College Prep – the CPS high school that honors the life and contribution of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who made Chicago a focal point in his historic fight for civil rights.

But our celebration of Black History Month goes far beyond the names on our buildings. In 2014, CPS introduced a comprehensive Interdisciplinary African and African-American Studies Curriculum – a curriculum that celebrates the rich diversity of our District by focusing on the universal themes of dignity, identity and culture.

This curriculum is a prominent focus in our schools, not just during Black History Month, but throughout the year.  The curriculum is driven by three essential questions:  How do culture and identity influence who we are?  How do time, culture, and history influence works of art and/or the advancement of science and technology?  And what can I do to positively impact my community.  

This curriculum is interwoven throughout all core subjects – History, English, Art, and even Math. For example, a fourth-grader working on factors and multiples in Math class might study the Pullman Porters – 19th-Century rail workers, many of them newly freed slaves, who lived primarily on Chicago’s south side. By studying their salaries, schedules and train routes, these students reinforce their math curriculum while learning about what many have deemed the first significant step toward the civil rights movement.

Throughout February, our schools will celebrate Black History Month with assemblies, art projects, history fairs and musical performances. We want to share those celebrations with the entire District, so be sure to email your plans and photos to spotlight@cps.edu.

No matter what their ethnicity, CPS students are taught to see Black History as an important part of their story as Americans. Our students benefit from learning about and celebrating all cultures, so we wish them much success and enjoyment during Black History Month.