The origins of Black History Month in the US

Virginia teacher dresses up as different black historical figure each day of Black History Month

Teacher Latoya McGriff created a different outfit for each day of Black History Month to help her first graders see history in real life. 

McGriff teaches first grade at Creekside Elementary School in Suffolk, Virginia. Every day in February, she has donned the clothes and look of different prominent black leaders. 

Each outfit features a name tag so students know who she represents.

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Costumes have included NASA engineer Mary Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Misty Copeland, Barack Obama and many other noteworthy African Americans.

“It is important for the children to see that people who look like them have made contributions because it reassures them that they can, too … It’s hard to believe in something you don’t see.” —Latoya McGriff

The different outfits are used as a conversation starter, McGriff told  ABC News. Her first graders are enthusiastic about the costumes and ask questions to know more about the historical figure she’s portraying, she added.

According to demographic statistics, Creekside Elementary is composed of almost 60% black students, compared to 25% white. 

McGriff says the school’s population makes representation in history of persistent importance.

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In addition to covering famous African American leaders, McGriff did some research to tie history makers who hail from Virginia and HBCUs as well.

She explained that sharing about a variety of leaders and organizations “gives children something to look up to, and they get excited about wanting to go to school and get to college.”   

“I hope that [the students] learn, no matter the circumstances, they can make a difference in this world. No matter where they come from, how they look, they can make a difference.” — Latoya McGriff

She said she hopes her story, which gained national attention on “Good Morning America,” inspires other educators to put thought into a Black History Month program.

“They don’t have to dress up like I did … but, I just want people to incorporate black history so that other students of color can see themselves represented in history,” McGriff said.

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