+ Black History in New York City: Web Site from Columbia

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Glenn Collins wrote in the NY Times about a new Web site from Columbia University: www.maap.columbia.edu.

A Web site was officially unveiled on  March 5, 2008. 

It has been given the acronym MAAP: “Mapping the African American Experience.”  The site uses text, audio, video, maps and historical images as well as interactive maps to showcase 52 historic sites in New York City. 

They range from the familiar (the African Burial Ground in Lower Manhattan) to the rarely acknowledged, including Downing’s Oyster House at 5 Broad Street near Wall Street, and the Colored Orphan Asylum.

Downing’s Oyster House was a teeming restaurant, and in the 19th century its patrons were bankers, politicians and lawyers.  The proprietor, Thomas Downing, a free black man, presided over a far different scene downstairs in the basement: a hiding place for escaping slaves.  It was a stop on the Underground Railroad, on the way to Canada and freedom.

Stories about Downing’s and the many other locales and people significant to black history in New York City have rarely been classroom staples.

“It gives students an opportunity for detailed study in a way that would never be possible in traditional textbooks,” says Frank A Moretti, professor of communications at Teachers College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

He describes the new site as the most extensive Web-based examination of the city’s African-American history.  The site is a portal to film and music clips, photographs and artwork, and is searchable by location and year back to 1632.

The yearlong project was conceived by Reginald L Powe, a longtime developer of educational content for publishers and curriculum providers.  Powe’s Manhattan-based company, Creative Curriculum Initiatives, has produced boxed sets of 52 cards (3 1/2 by 5 inches) depicting hisorical locations under the rubric “The African Experience in New York.”

“As an African-American interested in history,” says Powe, “I found it hard to understand why so much of the city’s African-American past was unknown to students.  People know little about slave revolts and people burned at the stake — and about inspirational stories of those who advanced at impossible odds.”

A thousand sets of the cards will be made available free to schools in New York City.  They will be offered for sale to the public for $24, which is “the price reputed to have been paid for Manhattan,” says Powe.

To create the Web site, more information, images and video interviews were added by educators in Columbia’s Center for New Media Teaching and Learning.  

Dr Moretti, the center’s executive director, says the project was initially financed with $250,000 from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and then Columbia contributed $250,000 in development and staff expenses to produce the site and teaching materials.

Dr Margaret S. Crocco, professor and coordinator of social studies education at Teachers College, directed a team of eight educators to create 24 free, downloadable lesson plans at eighth- and fourth-grade levels.   The images and information can be dragged, manipulated and otherwise organized by students for projects and teacher creating their own lesson plans.

The site is evidence of “the significant awakening of interest in New York’s black history,” says Kenneth T Jackson, the Jacques Barzun professor of history at Columbia, and the editor in chief of the Encyclopedia of New York City.

“This site should just keep expanding,” he says.

Here’s hoping other cities follow suit.

sole source: Glenn Collins’s article in the NY Times on 3/6/08.  www.nytimes.com

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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