Sankofa: Reclaiming our Past

At TAMS and ED Homeschool, we stress to our students the importance of our family connections. We encourage them to spend time with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others who can share family stories and details about their ancestors. And, once those details have been shared, we stress to our students the awesome responsibility of preserving those stories and writing about them. 

We teach them the story of “Sankofa,” which is based on a West African proverb that says, “se wo were fi na wo san kofa a yenki,” or “It is not taboo  to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.”

sankofa (1) Kansas
Marla Jackson
born 1952, Detroit, Michigan 
cotton, batik fabric, applique, cowry shells, peacock feathers, Austrian crystal, metallic thread

 

Sankofa comes from the Akan tribe in Ghana.  The literal translation of the word and the symbol is: 

SAN  (return),

KO  (go),

FA (look, seek and take).

The Sankofa bird symbolizes the Akan people’s quest for knowledge beginning with an examination of our past. Visually and symbolically Sankofa is expressed as a mythical bird that flies forward while looking backward with an egg (symbolizing the future) in its mouth. It teaches us that we must dig deep into our roots, study and know our past, in order to move forward. In order to fully appreciate our African American culture and traditions, we must reach back and reclaim what we have been stripped of, lost, forgotten, or forgone.

sankofa-bird-i

The Sankofa bird is one of the “Andinkra” symbols. Named after the legendary King Adinkra, these symbols express various themes that relate to the history, beliefs and philosophy of the Asante people. The heart is another symbol of Sankofa.

Sankofa heartIn order to gain greater control over their slaves, slave owners robbed them of their cultures and identities. Many slaves were separated from their families and denied their given names. Families were separated due to sale, escape, early death from poor health, suicide, and murder by a slaveholder or bushwhacker. Separation also occurred within the plantation itself, e.g., by segregating “field slaves” from “house servants,” removing children from parents to live together with a slave caretaker, or bringing children fathered by the slaveholder to live in the “Big House.” 

We teach our students that they cannot know where they are going unless they know where they came from. We begin our Sankofa journey by having each child stand with their feet facing forward. Then we ask each one to look back and begin to consider who he/she might see first: Mom, Dad, aunts, uncles, Grandma, Grandpa, Great-grandma, Great-grandpa, and so on. We stress the importance of the family unit. 

Peter SankofaOver the holiday season, when families tend to gather more often, we task our students with story gathering. They are to talk to their grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and learn about their immediate family. They will create a family tree with photos and quotes from their family members, especially their elder family members, such as grandparents and great grand parents. 

We hope you will encourage your children to tell their Sankofa stories and preserve their rich cultural history.

Thank you for visiting us. Let’s stay connected. Visit us at http://www.tamsanded.com or on Facebook, TAMS and Ed Homeschool. 

Who Was George Washington Carver?

George Washington Carver was a world-famous chemist who made important agricultural discoveries and inventions. His research on peanuts, sweet potatoes, and other products helped poor southern farmers vary their crops and improve their diets. A monument showing Carver as a boy was the first national memorial erected in honor of an African American.

George W Carver laboratory

Here is a free resource! based on the book Who Was George Washington Carver, by Jim Gigliotti. You can use this as a Study Guide designed to help students gain deeper knowledge or as a Quiz to test their knowledge after they read this book.

Vocabulary: Write the definition for each of the following words.

orphan: _____________________________________________________

immigrant: ______________________________________________________________________________

bushwhacker: ____________________________________________________________________________

Amendment: _____________________________________________________________________________

nursery: __________________________________________________________________________________

horticulture: _____________________________________________________________________________

chemist: _________________________________________________________________________________

botany: ___________________________________________________________________________________

nutrients: _________________________________________________________________________________

legacy: ____________________________________________________________________________________

Questions: Please answer the following questions in this format:

statue of Carver as a boy
The boy Carver statue is a nine-foot high bronze statue by Robert Amendola. It depicts George Washington Carver as a boy and is mounted on a large limestone rock. The boy Carver statue was dedicated at the George Washington Carver National Monument of July 17, 1960. 
The George Washington Carver National Monument near Diamond, Missouri, was approved by Congress in 1943. It was the first national memorial to an African American. The chief sponsor of the legislation to create the monument was Missouri native Harry S. Truman. He was a senator from Missouri at the time. A dedication ceremony of the monument was held on July 13, 1953. 
[SHS 007935; Massie-Missouri Resources Commission photo]
  • Write complete sentences in your own words. Do not copy straight from the book. 
  • Restate the question. For example, to answer Question #1, you might write, George got the nickname “the Plant Doctor” after he… . 
  • Begin each sentence with a capital letter.
  • End each sentence with punctuation. 

 

  1. How did George get the nickname, “the Plant Doctor?”
  2. Who are Moses and Susan?
  3. Who are Mary and Jim?
  4. Describe Missouri’s role in the Civil War.
  5. What is the importance of the 13th Amendment? 
  6. Re-read pages 14-15. Write a paragraph and summarize (briefly re-tell) what those two pages are talking about.
  7. What significant (important) event happened to George when he was 8 years old?
  8. Why did George refer to God as “Creator”?
  9. Describe Mariah Watkins.
  10. Why didn’t Mariah Watkins like it when George said, “I’m Carver’s George”?
  11. Why did George move to Neosho?
  12. Compare Neosho to Diamond Grove.
  13. What was the name of George’s school in Neosho?
  14. Re-read page 41. Write a paragraph that describes Jim Crow Laws. **Remember: a paragraph is not one long sentence strung together with the word “and.” Write 3-4 complete sentences. 
  15. Read pages 46-47. Describe the house that George built.
  16. What was the Homestead Act of 1862? Who signed it into law?
  17. Describe George’s experience at Simpson College. Why did he leave? 
  18. What was the “Atlanta Compromise”? Who wrote it? How did black people feel about it?
  19. Read page 61. Write a short paragraph about Booker T. Washington.
  20. Why did Booker T. Washington want George to attend Tuskegee?
  21. Describe the booklets that George wrote for slaves.
  22. What was the Jesup Wagon?
  23. What did George say after Booker T. Washington died?
  24. Why did George want farmers to rotate their crops?
  25. Describe George’s famous peanut booklet. Why did the Royal Society of Arts in London honor him for this booklet?
  26. What was George’s goal when he started the George Washington Carver Foundation at Tuskegee? 

Internet activity: use the Internet to learn more about whooping cough. Describe what it is. 

On your own: 

  1. Write a 2-page essay titled The Legacy of Dr. George Washington Carver. Describe his legacy in 3-5 paragraphs. Support your essay with plenty of details and description of his great work. 
  2. Create a “How to” brochure

George Washington Carver created a booklet called How to Grow the Peanut, and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption.

Create a tri-fold “how to” brochure about something that you love. 

  1. The cover should be a photo of you involved with the topic. For example, if you are writing a “How to” about playing the piano, you will be in a photo playing the piano. If you are writing about how to bake a cake, your photo might include you in the kitchen baking a cake. 
  2. The inside pages should include the following: 1) an introduction and something interesting about the topic; 2) “How to” details about the topic; 3) other suggestions on how to use the product.
  3. The back page should include Acknowledgements that thank people, such as Mom and Dad, who helped you complete the brochure. This page should also and References, such as books or Internet sources that you used. Books and Internet sources should be in MLA format. 

Thank you for visiting our blog, TAMS and ED Home schoolers. Feel free to copy and paste this lesson and use it as a supplement to your Reading, Writing, or Social Studies lessons.

For more lessons that emphasize African Americans and their great contributions to education, follow my blog. Also, like us on Facebook, TAMS and ED Homeschool. Visit our website at http://www.tamsanded.com