Elementary has its 'walls of pride' HISTORY LESSONS

February 28, 1992|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,Staff Writer

A drawing of Shaka Zulu, one of the most famous leaders in African history, hangs in the front hallway at the James McHenry Elementary School in southwest Baltimore.

The Shaka Zulu portrait and about 75 other drawings of great Africans and black Americans help the students learn about black history.

Michelle Redmond, a teacher's assistant, drew the portraits. Some of Ms. Redmond's works are displayed year-round at the school, and she has added more drawings to the exhibit to mark Black History Month.

Danielle Deaver, a fifth-grader, recognized many of the historic figures depicted in the drawings. But she did not know many details about Shaka Zulu, a 19th-century warrior who united African tribes to battle white settlers.

"I know that he was famous and he was a king," said Danielle. "I know he was a hero to African people."

The images of diplomat Ralph Bunche, jazz singer Billie Holiday, black nationalist Marcus Garvey, Ethiopian President Haile Selassie and other notables hang on the "walls of pride" at James McHenry Elementary and reflect the past and present contributions of people of color, said Ms. Redmond.

"I have some pictures up all year long because there's just a lot that my babies don't know about their history," Ms. Redmond said of the students.

"There's too much they need to know and these hopefully will help them to learn. After they see the artwork, they start to talk about them."

Drawings of famous entertainers and politicians are also on the walls.

School classes take regular tours in the halls and the faces the students see are reinforced by classroom lectures. Short passages beneath many pictures give brief histories of the subjects.

While viewing the exhibit, one student learned Malcolm X was born with the surname Little. Another learned that Mr. Bunche won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950. And another learned that Marian Anderson was known for her "beautiful voice."

"It's a good motivator for self-esteem. It shows that we do have kings and queens. They [students] usually see the negative side of life," said Vernetta McCullum, a special education teacher at James McHenry. "They can identify with these pictures."

The likeness of Nefertiti, an ancient Egyptian queen, was of unique interest to many students. A recent music video portrayed a beautiful queen, which apparently made an impression on the students.

"I know who that is," said Corey Bell, 11, a fifth-grader, upon seeing the drawing of Nefertiti. "I know she played in Michael Jackson's video 'Remember The Time.' "

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