SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– It’s been nearly 25 years since the Black History Summer Academy first began.
“It started with a group of men called Ebony Men on a Mission,” said Director Gwendolyn Marshall.
Marshall says the men wanted African-American history added to Springfield Public Schools curriculum. However, Marshall says the men’s initial request was unsuccessful.
“The men decided we would start in the black churches,” said Marshall.
The non-profit has evolved since then.
“Everybody needs to know the history,” said Marshall. “It’s very important that we are aware of each other.”
She says the academy exposes children to local African-American historical figures.
“Walter Majors built one of the first automobiles here in Springfield, Missouri,” said Marshall. “They actually called him “Duck” Majors, he was very influential in the city.”
Marshall says the students might not have otherwise known about people like Majors.
“We talk to the children about the first African-American grocery store, that was there on Boonville Street before the 1906 lynching,” said Marshall.
Marshall says most people are unaware of these Springfield people and places.
“I really do believe that if we’re not aware of our past we’re destined to repeat it,” said Marshall.
Marshall says it’s important to honor those who came before us.
In addition to the summer academy, students are also introduced to an African celebration called Ariya.
“It’s a right of passage,” said Marshall.
Marshall says oftentimes children of color don’t have mentors who look like them, which is one reason why the non-profit decided to incorporate the celebration.
This year’s academy will run June 8th through June 12th.