WINCHESTER, Ky. (AP) — When George Rogers Clark High School history teacher Amy Madsen was invited to speak at the fourth anniversary celebration of the African-American Genealogy Group of Kentucky last month about the African-American history class she teaches, she discovered the class is one of a kind.
"This is the only year-long African-American history class taught in Kentucky," she said. "I didn’t know that until that meeting, but I was shocked when they told me."
Madsen, who has a master’s degree and has almost completed her doctorate in African-American studies, started the class at GRC three years ago after she presented the idea to the school-based decision-making council.
She said she’s passionate about the subject because history has typically been taught from a white man’s perspective.
"Students learn so much more about white achievement," she said. "They might hear a little bit about Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King, Jr., but for the most part black achievement has been ignored in history classes."
Madsen teaches the class twice a week and has 31 students enrolled this school year.
"The class continues to grow each year," she said. "The group is very diverse too."
As with any class, Madsen said she has learned as much from the students as she has taught them.
"It’s really interesting because they don’t want to dwell on slavery," she said. "They want to know more about the accomplishments of African-Americans than the slavery aspect of it all. They want to be built up through this course."
The class is taught using a textbook, but students also complete a variety of projects and read several memoirs about the African-American experience. Students recently visited a Frank X. Walker exhibit at the Lyric Theater in Lexington. Walker, the first black Poet Laureate of Kentucky, met with the students and volunteered to speak to the class for free later this semester.
Throughout February, students are learning about successful and notable African-Americans through a series of Black History Month projects. Students will participate in a trivia contest and will sell T-shirts with proceeds being donated to a local charity. Classroom doors will also be decorated with photos and information about historical and modern successful African-Americans.
Doors will be decorated in honor of people like Jesse Owens, Malcolm X, Beyonce, Marcus Garvey, Barack Obama, George Washington Carver, Ruby Bridges and Darius Rucker.
Anthony Harris, a senior enrolled in Madsen’s class, is helping with the project and said he’s excited to bring some attention to a group of people who are largely overlooked.
"Black History Month is celebrated just once a year for 28 days," Harris said. "Throughout the rest of the year, black history is overlooked a lot of the time. This project is a way for us to put some information out there to show people the achievements of black people, to show people the real role African-Americans have played in America."
Harris signed up for the class because he is interested in history and wanted to "expand his knowledge," specifically about how African-Americans helped shape the nation.
"I’ve learned through this class that African roots go back as far as the earliest humans," he said. "When Africans were brought to America via the slave trade, they began helping to mold and shape this nation. They taught white people about their culture and there are a lot of African-American influences."
He said participating in a class like Madsen’s has been a privilege.
"There are topics featured in this class that students won’t get in any other class," he said. "You’re not going to see a class like this anywhere else."