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Why A Pine Bluff Field Trip Can Teach Kids More About Black History

Updated: Jul 19, 2023

Image Credit: Trikosko, Marion S.. No changes were made to the image.

Why A Pine Bluff Field Trip Can Teach Kids More About Black History

It’s been 156 years since the first Juneteenth was celebrated in 1866, but according to Vox’s article on the history of Juneteenth, it’s been only a little over a year since Congress passed a bill that recognizes it as a national holiday. This relatively late recognition is reflective of the similarly slow uptake of Black history in many school curriculums. Fortunately, many parents, students, and educators themselves are pushing for a better inclusion of Black history in educational systems. But in a time when misinformation and revisionism are rampant, how else can children be better exposed to the honest history that they deserve to know?

Why Field Trips Are An Educator’s Ally

While in-classroom learning is, of course, effective, studies show that hands-on educational experiences can be significantly more useful. To elaborate, Brigham Young University’s studies on culturally enriching field trips found that students who attended such activities were stronger performers. More specifically, students who participated in multiple field trips regularly scored on tests higher, engaged in class more, and reported increased cultural conscientiousness. Overall, this is why more educators are turning to trips to notable places like Pine Bluff to enhance children’s understanding of key aspects of the country, namely Black history.

Pine Bluff’s Role in Black History and Culture

So how does Pine Bluff play a role in teaching Black history? In a nutshell, the city itself was an active witness to many great civil rights events and Black leaders. During Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s civil rights journey in 1958, he gave a commencement address at Arkansas AM&N College (now called the University of Arkansas). Though Dr. King was only 29 at the time, his magnetism and influence in the civil rights movement were already undeniable. Despite the fact that inviting him to speak to the 233 graduating seniors was seen as controversial, the university bravely stuck to its decision knowing it would inspire their youth. This would mark Dr. King’s only time to speak in an Arkansas establishment.

Aside from this, Pine Bluff hasn’t just helped the civil rights movement but women’s liberation as well. Despite how history likes to downplay the role of women in achieving equality and furthering humankind, women, in truth, played vital roles through the years. In the civil rights movement, Black women were equally at the front of change with their male peers. A Maryville University’s blog post on women in American politics shares that Black icons like Sojourner Truth and Mary Church Terrell are named among the most influential women of color to help the cause. A former slave, Sojourner Truth bravely became an abolitionist and women’s rights movement champion in the 1850s. A few years later, Mary Church Terrell became the first president of the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) which aimed to break down the voting barriers the African-American community faced. Almost a hundred years later, their efforts would be continued in Pine Bluff by like-minded figures like Mamie Clark.

A psychologist married to Dr. Kenneth Clark, Mamie was co-creator of the famed Doll Test. A psychological test that the Clarks designed to gauge the development of self-esteem in children in relation to race, the doll test also illustrated how color affects perceptions of value. These tests further proved that the negative traits associated with race were based on the alienation and prejudice experienced by children. These research findings were later critical components in Brown v. Board of Education. Through this, the US Supreme Court unanimously ruled against racial segregation in public schools since it was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Since many children who participated in the study were from Pine Bluff, too, this marks the city’s continued role in breaking barriers. Today, such contributions can be studied and revisited by students at the University Museum & Cultural Center.

On a lighter note, Pine Bluff has also served as the cradle for Blues. A product of African American ingenuity, the Blues represents a cultural shift that reflects the racial and social forces of the past. In Pine Bluff, this can be examined through photographs, records, instruments, and musical pieces in the Delta Rhythm & Bayous: Freedom & Blues Exhibition.

Learning in Pine Bluff and Beyond

Without a doubt, Pine Bluff is a city that holds much importance in Black history. For today’s children to become the fair and just leaders of tomorrow, it’s important that they’re well immersed in the Black history that is key to the country’s identity.

Written by Aliana Cathy Jacobson

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