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Chicago Public Schools Celebrates Black History Month With District and School-Based Events and Initiatives

01 February 2023

February programs recognize and honor the achievements of the African diaspora

CPS Office of Communications

Phone: 773-553-1620
Twitter: @chipubschools
Facebook: chicagopublicschools

CHICAGO –  Students and staff across Chicago Public Schools (CPS) are honoring the history, contributions, and achievements of Black people through a series of special events and activities during the month of February. The District’s Black History Month initiatives build on CPS’ ongoing, year-long Black history curriculum and programming that provide CPS students with the opportunity to learn about the achievements of Black people throughout the African diaspora, whether in STEM, music, politics, activism, sports, the arts, or other fields of human endeavor.

“Black history is an integral part of American history and it deserves our attention and respect this month - and every month,”  said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “Whether it's the Chicago-based artform House Music, the three-light traffic signal, gas heating furnace, clothes dryer, modern toilet, hair care products, or peanut butter, the contributions and accomplishments of Black people have a positive impact on our lives each and every day. Education about Black history and Black achievement not only ensures our students have a more accurate understanding of history but also helps them develop a sense of empathy and understanding.” 

This morning, CEO Martinez joined students at Al Raby High School in the city’s East Garfield Park neighborhood to hear from them about what the month means to them and the activities they plan to participate in to uplift and honor the contributions of Black people. The conversation included a discussion of the school’s namesake, a prominent local civil rights leader, CPS educator, and environmentalist who, among a long list of accomplishments, worked closely with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on social justice issues, and served as the campaign manager for Harold Washington's historic mayoral campaign in 1983. Al Raby later served as the head of the Chicago Human Relations Commission, the local watchdog group that fights discrimination.

Black History Month, initially called “Negro History Week” by historian Carter G. Woodson, was officially recognized as a month-long celebration in 1976. In CPS, the District celebrates Black History through classroom curriculum such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the underground railroad, Juneteenth, and the significance of the namesake behind the Major Taylor Cycling Club, among other District-wide lessons.

This year, CPS Chief Education Officer Bogdana Chkoumbova began working with a group, called United Black Male Educators of CPS, to further develop a leadership pipeline for Black men in the District and ultimately help our Black male students achieve and succeed both in and outside the classroom. 

“Our District-wide goal is to have educators and District leaders who reflect our communities. Representation matters,” said Chkoumbova. “This leadership cohort will serve as an integral part of CPS’ efforts to recognize and respond to the unique lived experiences of our diverse student populations and our ongoing work to strengthen our systems to best support our students, staff, leaders, and communities.” 

Through the District’s Department of Social Science & Civic Engagement, students in grade K through 12 develop the skills, habits, and curiosity  to critically interrogate the world around them, evaluate and assess information from a variety of sources, work collaboratively with others from diverse backgrounds, and make informed decisions about who they want to be and plan how they will take action in the world. These skills empower students to be active and informed participants in their community and in Democracy.

CPS educators also encourage students to expand their knowledge of Black History outside of February via classroom activities such as recreating civil rights freedom movement posters, reading books written by Black authors, and accessing online resources at the National Museum of African American History & Culture, among other resources.

The Children First Fund, CPS’ foundation, will be recognizing Black History Month through social media in February by featuring prominent Black CPS alumni, from astronauts to journalists, actors, athletes, authors, and more.

Some of the events and partnerships scheduled at District schools include:

Northside Learning Center High School (2/1 - 2/28; celebration, 02/17 at 1 p.m.) “A Brief Moment in African American History” will be heard over the P.A. system each morning. Students will highlight notable Black figures throughout the month. A celebration of Dances of West Africa is scheduled for 1 p.m. Feb.17.
Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences Month-long celebration of Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ (HBCUs) impact on society and agriculture. Week One: HBCU clothing pride week, Week Two: “Tell Them We Are Rising” Movie and Discussion, Week Three: Trip to DuSable Museum, Week 4: Live Museum and Assembly.
Disney II Magnet H.S. (02/06, 5:30 p.m.) The school will be hosting their first annual HBCU Alumni Panel. Graduates from Jackson State University, Howard University, and Hampton University will share their experiences and guidance with students and families. The Disney II Dance team will kick off the event with a special performance.
Helen C. Peirce School (2/24, time TBD) In this Annual African American Showcase, the school invites the local community to participate in a gallery walk while asking the question: “How does culture and identity influence who we are?”
Suder Montessori Magnet School (2/24, Event 1, 9:30 a.m. and Event 2, 1:30 p.m.) In this Black History Expo and Ensemble, students will complete a research project on a Black history figure and curate a presentation for families. First through eighth grade students will gather in the school gymnasium to celebrate the culture through student and class performances.
South Shore International College Prep H.S. (2/28, 1:30 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.) School celebration aims to foster an educational understanding of Black history and culture.
Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts (2/28, 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.) The school will host a student-led production of a Black History Celebration including dance, spoken word, musical performances, and other displays of talent.
Avalon Park Fine and Performing Arts School and the Chicago Citizen Newspaper Group Avalon Park students will submit a “Black Excellence Paper” to be published in the Chicago Citizen Newspapers. On Feb.28, the school will host a “Harlem Renaissance” assembly at 1:15 p.m.