African-American history has played an integral role in the shaping of politics, economics, and culture in the United States. Growing up, how did you learn about the accomplishments and struggles of African Americans? Were you in a classroom? Reading a book? Talking with relatives or friends? How has your understanding or knowledge of African-American history changed and/or developed over time? What do you think is the most effective way to pass along this rich and growing history to future generations?

Elaine Burnett

I was raised by Catholic nuns in a children’s home, and went to a private Catholic school. Apparently everyone was concerned that I would graduate without knowing the world I was going to enter so a Sister (nun) suggested that I read about “Negro” people who had achieved a great deal, and I went to our library and got two books about Eartha Kit and Marian Anderson. Later I read “Before the Mayflower” by Leroy Bennet Jr., and then Ebony and Jet. The nuns started to worry about my selection, but my interest in history, American history to include Negros, Europeans, Indians (Native Americans) and Asians had begun, and has never stopped. I also discovered history really was easier to understand if you read it backwards, starting from present back and back – then lots of ideas and actions made sense. Now, I am piecing together my fragile family history and trying to understand it against a backdrop of major events.