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?

Jona McReynolds

My discovery of African-American history came out of necessity and self-preservation. I am what some would call the “white sheep” of the family (notice me in the picture with my little brother). Most in my family never questioned my blackness but I remember comments here and there commenting me on my pale skin or “good hair.” Outside of the family, however, I was and am constantly questioned about my race, as I’m sure most light-skinned African-Americans are, so I felt I had to defend my “blackness.” Knowledge is power, so the more I learned about our history the more powerful I felt as an African-American. Unlike my mother, I share as much of African-American history to my children as they will listen too. Our history is so rich and diverse that it deserves more acknowledgement in our schools and community. Thank you, Professor Gates for your efforts to promote and uplift how people.