An autodidact is a self-taught person and throughout the history of Africans on these shores, the legacy
of self-learning has been an integral part of African-American culture. Historically, African Americans had to rely upon
God and His ability to water and nurture the seed of genius within, for there were many written laws and customs restricting
access to resources based on race, skin color and gender. However, what was meant to be a stumbling block was used by God
as a blessing in disguise and sparked the creative genius of many African Americans. African-American Autodidacts, outside
of traditional schools and curriculums of the day, were able to acquire various bodies of knowledge, expand on them and create
January and February are the traditional months when our diverse nation reflects on the contributions of African Americans.
Many of us know by heart the heroic stories and contributions of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, George Washington Carver
and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. America also owes gratitude to many lesser-known African Americans who have, despite obstacles
placed in their way, followed their gifts and were uniquely used by God to contribute to the quality of life that we are blessed
to enjoy. African Americans such as:
Alexander Miles, who patented the elevator;
Daniel Hale Williams, who performed the first successful open heart surgery;
Meredith Gourdine, who invented a method of converting gas into electricity for everyday use;
Garrett Morgan, who patented the automatic traffic signal;
John Standard, inventor of the refrigerator;
Clarence Nokes, inventor of the lawnmower;
Harry Hopkins, who patented the hearing aid; and
W.B. Purvis, creator of the fountain pen.
From the pages of history, what speaks loudest is the fact that there is no one route to success, that God can and will use
any means possible to bring glory to His name. As a homeschooling parent, this reminds me not to limit God to only what I
can see, but to walk by faith and not by sight. The African-American Autodidacts of the past all had important people in
their lives that blessed them along the way, sharing their knowledge, their encouragement as well as emotional and financial
support. Likewise, this can be a model for modern parents to encourage our children's God-given talents as they explore the
world around them. Like many parents, I desire to raise my children to become resourceful and creative, life-long learners
who use the gifts that God gives them to contribute to the world. As my family advances along this homeschooling journey,
looking back at the history of African Americans is a great source of inspiration and encouragement.
As our nation celebrates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday and Black History Month, I hope you and your children take
courage and encouragement from the examples of the lives of African Americans and rejoice at the bright future we all can
enjoy when we live out God's good plan for our lives. As we celebrate the many ways that African Americans have contributed
to our great nation, let us remember the genius in us all. We are truly one body with many parts. Let us not despise our
differences but encourage them, knowing that all of us are blessed when each individual operates in their God-given talents.
"God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be
no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers
with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." I Corinthians 12:24-26.
Here are some ideas to celebrate the contributions of African Americans throughout the year:
1) Purchase a 2004 Black History Wall Calendar for 365 days of interesting and often overlooked facts of American history.
2) Visit African-American Unschooling's Africentric Resources page (see navigational bar) for ideas and suggestions on incorporating
African-American history and culture into your homeschooling.
3) Read Footsteps: African-American Heritage Magazine, a great resource for parents and children alike. Request it from your
library, bookstore or subscribe online at www.footstepsmagazine.com.
S. Courtney Walton lives and learns in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and four children. An advocate of Unschooling, Courtney
is the founder of a national network of African-American Unschoolers, serves as the Unschooling Advisor for the National African-American
Homeschoolers Alliance and writes frequently about her family's unschooling adventures in her column Real Living...Real
Learning with S. Courtney Walton for The Good News Herald in St. Louis, Missouri.
©2004 S. Courtney Walton, All Rights Reserved.