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?

Jacquelyn Stephens-Ramsey

I grew up in Sacramento and remember reading in the 4th grade in my history book one portion of a sentence which read, “…and negroes picked cotton.” I was furious that significant contributions made by “colored people,” for that was the way my identity was explained to me by my parents. I went home to ask my Mother why the book only talked about negroes picking cotton, when she had told us about teachers, lawyers, artisans and education. She explained that there were people who just did not want to give colored people their proper place in history and that I should never let anyone make a lie out of my origins or my people. I knew we picked cotton and did other things which were positive contributions because our Great Grandmother lived to be 111 years old and she always told us who we were and how we came to live in this country. I love Black people and I do not believe in being ashamed of their struggle to create a place for themselves in this place. We did not come here voluntarily, however, we forged ahead down the road to the future. The people who came before me were very courageous and I am grateful for them.