NAMING A SCHOOL IN HONOR OF DR. JOHN HENRIK CLARKE

By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (February 14, 2003)

 

 

            Since the movement of the 1960s, in both its Civil Rights Phases and its Black Power Phases, many public schools across America have been renamed to honor African in American heroes and heroines. In some cases new schools that have been built have been named in honor of African in American people who made significant contributions.

            The movement to rename or name new public schools in honor of African in American heroes and heroines grew out general impact of the 1960s Black Studies Movement that called for the revamping of the curriculum in all schools in America to accurately reflect the contributions of African and African in American people, not only to this country, but throughout the world.

            This movement, therefore, manifested itself by schools in America being named in honor of African people such as: Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Mary McCloud Bethune, Duke Ellington, Carter G. Woodson, W. E. B. DuBois, to name just a few.

            As part of the work of the National Black United Front (NBUF), we established in the 1980s, the NBUF World African Centered Educational Plan. One of the initiatives of this Plan that NBUF has been working on over the years is “African Centered curriculum development and educational restructuring in the public schools.”

            The Kansas City Chapter of NBUF, along with the W.E. B. DuBois Learning Center, have been at the forefront of organizing to implement the African Centered Curriculum in selected schools in Kansas City, Missouri.

            Recently, the work of NBUF and the W.E.B. DuBois Learning Center has resulted, over the last three months, of parents of the Kansas City, Missouri School Districts African Centered Schools meeting with the Kansas City School Board Officials for the purpose of naming one of the African Centered Middle Schools in honor of Dr. John Henrik Clarke.

            Jewish school board member, Joel Pelofsky, chairman of the school board’s naming committee, used his position to delay the naming process because of an article he received written by Henry Louis Gates several years ago. The article claimed that Dr. Clarke was anti-Semitic.

            The delaying tactics employed by Pelofsky set off a firestorm in Kansas City and around the country.

            Gates’ article attacking Dr. Clarke that appeared in the New York Times in 1992 was an inaccurate and insulting attack on the great achievements that Dr. Clarke made in his work as a scholar, researcher, teacher, writer, and activist for more than sixty years. Dr. Clarke died in 1998.

            Unanimously, most scholars, teachers, and activists in the African Community worldwide hold Dr. Clarke in high esteem as an example of what African people should strive for in the teaching and rewriting of world history.

            The African Centered Movement was greatly inspired when news spread that the parents in Kansas City, Missouri had recommended that the Middle School be named in honor of Dr. Clarke.

            Additionally, many European scholars, even some Jews, have noted in their pronouncements, the respect they had for Dr. Clarke.

            When word spread that this old attack by Gates on Dr. Clarke was being used to stop the naming of a school in his honor in Kansas City, scholars and activists across the country began to mobilize to defend the honor and great achievement of Dr. Clarke.

            Letters, telegrams, and phone calls were made from around the country in support of the Middle School being named in honor of Dr. Clarke. The impact of the mobilizing to support the parents in their efforts in Kansas City has led to Pelofsky and the School Board to go forward with the naming of the Middle School in honor of Dr. John Henrik Clarke.

            As I wrote in a previous article, “On Thursday, July 16, 1998, Dr. John Henrik Clarke made his transition into eternity. Dr. Clarke was one of our greatest African deep thinkers, historians, and educators in the history of the African world.”

            The following is Dr. Clarke speaking in his own words prior to his transition:

                        “But, while I must make this physical departure spiritually, I will

                        not leave you and God will take care of you. When you feel a cool

                        breeze blow across your face every now and then, just know that it

                        comes from the deep reservoir of love that I hold for you. Oh, by

the way, Christ is Black, I see him walking at a distance with

Nkrumah. I think they are coming over to greet me.”

 

            Congratulations to the parents in Kansas City, Missouri for recognizing the great contributions of Dr. John Henrik Clarke and recommending a school be named in his honor. Teach all who cross your threshold of his accomplishments, good works, and contributions, and make for him a “Good Name” so that he will always be remembered. You have done good work!

 
National Chairman
National Black United Front (NBUF)


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