Can We Communicate History Better During Black History Month?

Leslye Joy Allen, speaking with Denis O'Hayer on “Morning Edition” (Broadcast Version)Leslye Joy Allen, speaking with Denis O'Hayer on “Morning Edition” (Expanded Version)

The nation’s new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, recently faced a storm of criticism, after she issued a statement, in which she hailed historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”

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Critics charged DeVos displayed an ignorance of the conditions surrounding the establishment of HBCUs  specifically the legal system of discrimination that barred African-Americans from most institutions of higher learning.

DeVos’s statement came after a meeting President Donald Trump held with some HBCU presidents.  And it happened in the final days of Black History Month, which leads to a bigger question:  Since Black History Month has been observed in the U.S. for four decades, is there more work needed during that observance to communicate basic facts and context more effectively to more people?

On “Morning Edition,” Denis O’Hayer got some ideas from Leslye Joy Allen.  She is an historian, and oral historian at Georgia State University, where she is a doctoral candidate.