Posted on February 4, 2022
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Categories: News from SDP

School District of Philadelphia students will soon have easy access to content regarding Philadelphia’s rich history of local African American heroes and trailblazers. Thanks to a donation from Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection at Temple University Libraries, the School District of Philadelphia has received 5,000 copies of Black Lives Always Mattered!, a graphic novel that features profiles of 14 prominent African American Philadelphians of the twentieth century.

The graphic novel, which was published by the Blockson Collection and made possible by a grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, features work by both local and non-local comic book artists.

“We are very grateful to Temple University for their generous donation and support,” said Dr. Nyshawana Francis-Thompson, Deputy Chief of Curriculum and Instruction. “This book is a powerful tool that teachers can use to enhance student learning and engagement by celebrating the history of African American leaders who have made a significant impact on our city.”

Some of the individuals in the book include Frederick Massiah, Cecil B. Moore, Dr. Ethan Allen, Rev. Leon Sullivan, Julian Abele, Alain Leroy Locke and Dr. Walter P. Lomax, Jr..

“Through our grant, we wanted to introduce students to African Americans in Philadelphia who they probably hadn’t heard of and who made positive and major contributions to our city,” said Dr. Diane Turner, curator of the Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection. “We also wanted to promote literacy and the importance of the arts, and we felt that a graphic novel was a popular way to do that.”

The Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection is one of the nation’s leading research facilities for the study of the history and culture of people of African descent. This collection has more than 700,000 items, all of which are available free of charge for teachers in the School District of Philadelphia to utilize within their curriculum.

One copy of the book will be distributed to every school in the District. In addition, teachers who teach an African American History course will also receive a copy for their class. In 2005, the School District of Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to require African American History as a graduation requirement for all high school students in 2005. The course covers a variety of topics including classical African civilizations, race, slavery, the intellectual genealogy informing frameworks of Black resistance to oppressive policies, the abolition movement and Reconstruction.

Teachers who participate in three professional development opportunities based around teaching with graphic novels will also have the opportunity to receive a class set.

This year, the District launched Africana Studies Lecture and Workshop Series, a new professional development opportunity aimed at supporting equity and enhancing the African American History curriculum. Provided through the Office of Curriculum and Instruction, their third professional development of the series took place virtually on Saturday, Jan. 29. The first Keynote speaker was Sharif El-Mekki of the Center of Black Educator Development and the closing keynote speaker was Jesse Hagopian of Black Lives Matter at School and Rethinking Schools.

Schools will receive their books within the next week or two.