WXXI AM News

black history

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The Pittsford Central School District superintendent issued an apology on Tuesday over a classroom worksheet about slavery. 

In January, a fourth-grade classroom lesson on “Colonial times” included a worksheet that stated African Americans -- not Africans -- voluntarily agreed to take the trip across the Atlantic Ocean in exchange for several years of work, but were then kept in enslavement.

Other prompts in the fill-in-the-blank worksheet included what "jobs" slaves had.

A parent raised concern with the district over the worksheet. 

The seventh season of PBS' "Finding Your Roots" with Henry Louis Gates, Jr. offers another series of compelling stories about well-known people tracing their family ancestries. The episode that airs tonight features music artist Pharrell Williams, who learns some painful truths about his ancestors. Like many African Americans, Williams was unable to find much information about his genealogy due to a dearth of records before emancipation.

This hour, we talk with the lead genealogist from "Finding Your Roots" about the new season, about the challenges African Americans face in tracing their ancestries, about resources available in the process, and we hear from two women who found their roots. Our guests:

  • Nick Sheedy, lead genealogist for “Finding Your Roots,” season seven 
  • Cheryl Wills, award-winning journalist, anchor for Spectrum News NY1, and author of “Emma,” “The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills,” “Emancipated: My Family’s Fight for Freedom,” and “Die Free – A Heroic Family Tale” 
  • Teej Jenkins, host of WXXI’s “Arts in Focus,” and producer for WXXI-TV 

For more information about "Finding Your Roots" and resources to help trace your ancestry, click here.

What kind of effort do school districts make to teach Black history? The West Irondequoit School District is moving beyond the usual, often narrow approach. As part of a new video series through the Our Voices Project, students are educating their peers and the public about lesser-known Black historical figures.

Do you know about the lives and legacies of Jeremiah Hamilton, Bass Reeves, Afeni Shakur, and Maria Stewart? You will with our guests: 

  • Jackie McGriff, director and producer for the Our Voices Project
  • Courtney Shouse, parent, and member of the Education Task Force for Eliminating Racism and Seeking Equity (E.R.A.S.E.) 
  • Tyleea K. Payne-Harley, member of the Irondequoit High School Mosaic Club, who portrays Maria Stewart in the Our Voices Project
  • Selena G. Eyob, member of the Irondequoit High School Mosaic Club, who portrays Afeni Shakur in the Our Voices Project
  • Justin R. Connor, member of the Irondequoit High School Mosaic Club, who portrays Bass Reeves in the Our Voices Project

The National Women's Hall of Fame is posthumously inducting six Black women of great achievement: suffragist Mary Church Terrell, singer Aretha Franklin, nurse Barbara Hillary, librarian Barbara Rose Johns Powell, medical research revolutionizer Henrietta Lacks, and author Toni Morrison.

The Hall will host a virtual induction event Thursday evening co-hosted by 2019 inductee Angela Davis and League of Women Voters President Dr. Deborah Turner. We preview the event and discuss the remarkable inductees. Our guests:

  • Natalie Rudd, program coordinator for the National Women's Hall of Fame
  • Alison Parker, biographer of Mary Church Terrell
  • Jeri Lacks, granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks

The National Women's Hall of Fame is posthumously inducting six Black women of great achievement: suffragist Mary Church Terrell, singer Aretha Franklin, nurse Barbara Hillary, librarian Barbara Rose Johns Powell, medical research revolutionizer Henrietta Lacks, and author Toni Morrison.

The Hall will host a virtual induction event Thursday evening co-hosted by 2019 inductee Angela Davis and League of Women Voters President Dr. Deborah Turner. We preview the event and discuss the remarkable inductees. Our guests:

  • Natalie Rudd, program coordinator for the National Women's Hall of Fame
  • Alison Parker, biographer of Mary Church Terrell
  • Jeri Lacks, granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks

Composite: Noelle E. C. Evans and University of Rochester (image provided by Cilas Kemedjio)

When teaching black history, where do you begin? As Black History Month comes to a close, two black educators share differing approaches.

Cilas Kemedjio is the director of the Frederick Douglass Institute at the University of Rochester.

The institute was founded in 1986, after the university’s Black Student Union protested discriminatory treatment of African-American students, and called for a black studies program. The protests were part of a wider movement at universities across the country.

A powerful play at the Multi-Use Community Cultural Center is generating conversations about race. “Blues for Mister Charlie” is an award-winning work by James Baldwin that’s loosely based on the assassination of Emmett Till. 14-year-old Till was lynched in Mississippi after being accused of offending a white woman in a store. In the play, Richard Henry returns to the deep South from New York City to find his segregated home town embroiled in racism and hate. Heated encounters with a local white store owner lead to his murder and his family’s quest for justice. The play explores brutal moments of truth. 

This hour, we’re joined by the director and members of the cast to discuss Baldwin’s work and their goals for the production. In studio:

  • Gary DeWitt Marshall, director of “Blues for Mister Charlie”
  • Almeta Whitis, actor who plays Mother Henry
  • Richard Kendrick, actor who plays Parnell James