African American history with Ms. Madden and her 2nd graders

This year Ms. Maggie Madden’s 2nd grade class has focused on African American history to engage with and confront some of the most significant issues in the world today: social and political inclusion and human and civil rights. They have learned about the challenges African Americans have faced and their long history of resistance and fighting against injustice. They have read about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad; about the influence of Frederick Douglass on the anti-slavery movement globally; about Rosa Parks, her training as an activist, and her stands against segregation; about Martin Luther King and his inspiring leadership for equality.


Their learning has been enriched by numerous trips they have taken to museums in Brooklyn and Manhattan to further explore the important contributions African Americans have made to the city’s development. Examining artifacts, art, and exhibits in the city’s museums has allowed them to more deeply grasp and grapple with the complex history of race relations and the experience of racism in the U.S.


On the steps of the American Museum of Natural History

Students learned about slavery and the Underground Railroad in New York City at the Brooklyn Historical Society, the New York Historical Society, and the African Burial Ground. At the New York Historical Society they learned about the civil rights movement in New York City. At the Museum of Modern Art, they learned about the migration of African Americans from the U.S. south to northern cities through the vivid paintings of Jacob Lawrence, whose parents migrated from the south to Harlem. For details on the the exhibit, which is open until September 7th, visit the MOMA’s website.

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Library of Brooklyn Historical Society                      Writing about MOMA’s Jacob Lawrence exhibit

Next week, Herbert Seignoret, Associate Director of the Seneca Village Project and parent of one of Madden’s students, will visit the class. Mr. Seignoret will lead a workshop about Seneca Village, an African American and Irish immigrant community that existed in an area of what is now Central Park. Students will examine historical documents like newspapers, deeds, letters, and census records to learn methods for historical and archaeological research.

Ms. Madden and her students have worked hard all year and have benefitted from connecting classroom learning with resources from the city’s important historical and cultural institutions. The students have developed critical insight into U.S. history and society through this curriculum.

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Learning about Brooklyn’s agricultural past at the Brooklyn Historical Society

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Museum of Modern Art–Jacob Lawrence Exhibit