White Children Need To Know More Black History

02/03/2017 03:06 pm ET Updated Feb 03, 2017

At a Wednesday breakfast in honor of Black History Month, Donald Trump made some truly bizarre comments about nineteenth century abolitionist Frederick Douglass:

Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed.

The White House press corps, incredulous that the president would be oblivious to Douglass’s reputation, asked the president’s press secretary to clarify. He wasn’t helpful:

Once the internet arrived at the assumption that neither President Trump, nor his press secretary, had any clue that Frederick Douglass had been dead for 120 years, the jokes erupted:

The humor magazine McSwneeney's even reprinted Trump's speech, unedited, as a standalone humor piece, called, "My Very Good Black History Month Tribute to Some of the Most Tremendous Black People."

The most charitable interpretation of the whole episode is that Donald Trump and his staff have a narrow understanding of Black history. What's not so funny about this whole endeavor is that the American president's seeming obliviousness is not terribly unique, but rather is symptomatic of an American culture that lets White people get away with knowing very little about the histories and cultures of non-White people.

Twitter can have a hearty chuckle over the fact that the president doesn't know who Frederick Douglass was ... but does the average White American really know enough about Black history to be so judgmental? I know that my own education, though inclusive by some standards, was woefully inadequate with respect to reading sources written from the perspectives of non-White Americans.

In light of this, instead of the regular daily reading list, today I am sharing a series of age-appropriate reading lists, which parents and teachers might use to expose all children to Black American history and culture. None of these lists is exhaustive on its own, and I encourage readers to share their own ideas and favorites in the comments. Have a great weekend!

Younger Children

Teens

Bonus! My personal favorites: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi and Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison

College Students and Adults

This post originally appeared at justinccohen.com.

HuffPost

BEFORE YOU GO

CONVERSATIONS