African Americans, particularly in North Carolina, sacrificed more to build schools than any other group. Despite this, many educators accept the myth that African American families are less interested in education than others. Historically, nothing could be further from the truth. I call this damaging stereotype “the inversion.”

Nida Hayes Murphy, early teacher in Pender County, NC. Undated image courtesy of New Hanover County Public Library, identification provided by local family members

If you teach in Title One (high poverty) schools as I do, then it is likely that you have endured many workshops focused on student deficits. Title One schools are likely to have a higher proportion of students of color than their wealthier counterparts. At one point, I taught in a school…

Mom,writer, filmmaker, teacher, recovering New Yorker

Editing my feature film Sharecrop

My writing, filmmaking and teaching are all knit together by my fascination with stories. Over the past 17 years I have created documentaries centered on oral history of historic African American schools, and on sharecropping. (You can learn more and link to film trailers, and stream four of my films on Amazon, see my website below for more information).

Regarding my writing and what I publish on Medium, many of my articles are related to the history that is addressed in my documentaries. I have also shared personal essays and short fiction. I grew…

Jean Lloyd, alumna of the Baltimore school picture by Claudia Stack, all rights reserved

The Baltimore School in Bladen County, NC was built on a Rosenwald plan in the 1940s. Jean Lloyd (pictured in the yellow jacket on the steps of the building, which is now a community center) is a dedicated alumni association member. Lloyd recalls that when she attended school there decades ago, she had caring teachers. The teacher she remembers the best is her third grade teacher, Ms. Evelena Bryant, who is now 97 years young.

Bryant recalls that when she taught, she encouraged students to create stories. She wanted them to have fun while learning, but her expectations were always…

Photo by Ian Tuck on Unsplash

Mack gestured for Sonia to follow as he led Willow up the ramp. Silently, he took Willow into her stall and removed her halter in one smooth motion. Willow stood briefly while Mack gave her forehead a rub, and then the mare wandered to the corner of the stall to get a mouthful of hay. Mack slid the door closed, pushed a large metal bolt that secured the stall door to the door frame, and hung Willow’s halter on a hook. Only then did he look again at Sonia.

“Keep your voice down, girl. How do you know Miss Sarah?”

(1866) African American workers on Cape Fear River rice plantation, N.C. Weeding. 1866. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, Rights Advisory: No known restrictions on publication. Reproduction Number: LC-USZ62–61965 (b&w film copy neg.) Call Number: Illus. in AP2.L52 1866 (Case Y) [P&P]. Although this engraving was made immediately after the Civil War, it depicts African Americans working rice fields by hand as they did during enslavement.

In 1855, Fanny C. Watters was born on Clarendon, a prosperous rice plantation on the Cape Fear River in Brunswick County, NC. Near the end of her life, in 1944, she penned a book of vignettes about her childhood. The family published it as Plantation Memories of the Cape Fear River Country, and her relative George M. Stephens republished it in 1961. In the second edition, Stephens writes in a brief forward that her “words made bright pictures of childhood before the Civil War.” …

Photo by Allen Taylor on Unsplash

When I drive, I am fascinated by the stickers I see in rear windows. The figures in the stickers are, I think, meant to represent the families in the vehicles. There might be a picture of a happy mom with a briefcase, a dad with a fishing pole, and a multitude of kids decked out in sports gear. Everyone looks content; certainly, no one is stressed out.

There is no hint, in the happy stick figure families, of the day that mom lost it while driving the kids to school one morning. Perhaps she was already running late when a…

Photo by Jordan Whitt on Unsplash

Parenting children on the autism spectrum can be very challenging. The various ways that Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) presents means that different intervention strategies can work for different children. This article examines the Treatment and Education of Autistic and related Communication- Handicapped Children (TEACCH) model.

As a teacher, I have witnessed the positive impact the TEACCH program can have on families of children with autism. Having a child with autism can be very stressful, and parents of these children often feel judged and unsupported. …

Erasure may be worse than hatefulness

Photo by Marquise Kamanke on Unsplash

“There’s no such thing as an African American” is a statement I have seen more than once in the comments section of my articles. As a filmmaker and educator who has been documenting historic schools built by African Americans, sharecropping, and other central experiences in African American history for the past 17 years, I often write about what I have learned.

The vitriol in the comments (“monkeys are good at picking cotton”) that some people make about my articles is one thing. Yet at first, I was stunned by the outright denial of African American existence. Imagine if someone said…

Photo by Kin Li on Unsplash

The long summer continued, and Sonia was in the habit of going to the stable every day now to help Mack take care of Willow. Climbing the ramp to the stable’s upper floors seemed natural to her now. Without thinking about it, Sonia placed her feet just as the horses placed their hooves, seeking the old strips of wood on the ramp that gave the horses traction on the steep ramp.

The first thing she did on arriving was go to Willow’s stall and give her a treat, whether a carrot she bought from the bodega, or an apple she…

Currie Rosenwald School, Pender County, NC (built 1927) Image by Claudia Stack, all rights reserved

Rosenwald schools were schools that were built between 1912 and 1932 by African American communities that received technical and financial assistance from Julius Rosenwald (mostly via the Rosenwald Fund). The Rosenwald Fund contribution, in turn, leveraged support from southern school boards that had been reluctant to build schools for African Americans. Rosenwald schools constitute the most numerous and easily recognizable type of school built by African American communities during the segregation era, but they were by no means the only kind of school built by African Americans during segregation. As the National Park Service notes:

The establishment of public schools…

Claudia Stack

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