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Madison Metropolitan School District

High School Class Engages Students in Interactive Learning of Modern Black History

High School Class Engages Students in Interactive Learning of Modern Black History

In Nathan Hutchins’ Modern US History–African American Experience course at Memorial High School, students takeaway impactful lessons through interactive, project-based learning. 

The course, which was held this fall semester, covers important themes and topics including power, oppression and race; Black joy and love; and contemporary connections and intersectionality from WWII to the present. During the community unit, Hutchins and his students read the book “Settlin': Stories of Madison's Early African American Families” as a class to explore local examples of how Black Americans have created a culture of joy and community in the face of oppression. 

“Teaching the students about African American experiences allows them to learn about topics such as Red Summer, African American studies at the UW, Civil Rights Movement, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and look at intersections between Black Freedom Movements and other Social Movements,” Hutchins said.

Memorial junior Laura Lopez said the course helped her grasp the idea of the joy, resistance, love, and success that were–and continue to be–created in the walls of Black communities. 

“The world is changing for the better and developing the way we see history,” Lopez said. “For years, I was blinded by the basic sugar-coated history books, but with this class it opened my eyes to different viewpoints and the hidden oppression people of color had to face all around the world.”

For Memorial junior Ruby Anderson, Hutchins’ student-led approach to teaching helped her grasp a better understanding of the topics, by hearing from multiple perspectives.  

“Student-based learning and having students present topics to the class is valuable because students have to learn enough to teach the class,” Anderson said. “With average teacher-taught lectures, students are just receiving information instead of processing it and putting together presentations.” 

With so much crucial content to cover, Lopez and Hutchins both said the course would benefit from growing from a one-semester to a full-year class. Looking forward, It would enhance student knowledge, depth and understanding of the topics, and permit a greater look at international connection case studies, Hutchins said.