When Dr. King trumps school

by Dana Saxon

When I was in 6th grade, I attended a school that celebrated Columbus Day, but did not acknowledge Dr. Martin Luther King’s Day. I’m not sure of the justification. But students were expected to be in school on a day when the rest of the country celebrated the national hero.

That year, which was my only year attending the school, my mother kept me at home on Dr. King’s Day. The following day I was required to submit a form to explain my absence. To be clear that it wasn’t an emergency, I wasn’t sick, and that my absence required no further explanation, my mother wrote on the form in bold letters: “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.” My teacher (who had already proven she was less than supportive of her Black students) looked puzzled when she reviewed the form, perhaps thrown off by my mother’s brazen approach to educating her own child. She sent me to ask the Black teacher across the hall how she should file the form. I’m not sure what filing category they chose, maybe “Nonviolent Militancy.”


Dr King AbsenceSchools oftentimes miss the mark in acknowledging and teaching Black history. We can be frustrated by this. And we should certainly make every effort to change this. But in the meantime, parents and families can take responsibility to incorporate this education at home, making up for what’s lacking at school. My mother’s unwillingness to tolerate my school’s disrespect of Dr. King made a lasting impression on me – likely more than I learned in any of my Social Studies classes that year.

What history lessons did you learn at home that otherwise weren’t being taught in school?

And, oh yeah, Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!!

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