Betty J. Johnson Library in Newtown offering Saturday program for children and teens ‘to learn true history of Africans and African-Americans’

Free sessions to continue through April 29, sponsored by Manasota branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

The Betty J. Johnson North Sarasota Library in Newtown is offering “an innovative free pilot program” called The Freedom School that is offering what organizers call “an opportunity for children and teenagers to learn the true history of Africans and African-Americans.”

The program, which began on Feb. 18, will continue each Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. through April 29, a news release explains.

Among the Black people and places that will be discussed are Frederick Douglas, Mansa Musa, Marian Anderson, Toussaint Louverture, Langston Hughes, 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela, former President Barack Obama, Kwame Nkrumah, NBA start LeBron James, Ancient Mali, Ancient Songhai, Ancient Kush, The Gold Coast, and Haiti, the release points out.

“The Freedom School” was chosen as the title of the program “to evoke the memory of the community schools launched by the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee” of the civil rights era, the release adds.

Although the program is being targeted to  students in grades 3 through 12, all will be welcome, the release points out. The program sponsor is the Manasota branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), “a century-old educational organization,” the release notes.

The Manasota ASALH website explains that the national founder of the Study of African American Life and History, Carter G. Woodson, “believed that the mission of disseminating knowledge about Black history could best be achieved through branches such as our own.”

The course “will focus on the 500-year sweep of the Black experience in America,” the release continues. “Its subjects will include Africa’s history, the origins of the slave trade, the Middle Passage’s brutal realities, the antebellum South’s slave economy, emancipation and its aftermath,” the civil rights movement, and contemporary African-Americans’ achievements and challenges, the release adds.

The course is being taught by certified teachers with the aid of volunteers from the community and the Manasota ASALH, the release says.

“At a time when there is controversy over the teaching of Black history in public schools in Florida and other parts of the nation, the program will deal, in part, with the need to live, rather than simply recite, the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution,” the release continues. “It also is aimed at fostering critical thinking and informed citizenship. The curriculum has been designed by the BH365 Co., which provides interactive, age-appropriate textbooks” and other materials for many schools in the United States, the release adds

For further information, including on how to enroll, contact David G. Wilkins at 989-980-0555 or Dave Harralson at 941-870-5516, the release says.