In History Classes at Charleston Schools, Students Talk About Emanuel AME ‘Every Single Day’

Kara Keale talks with junior Tyeshia Williams during her AP U.S. History Class at Burke High School. GRACE BEAHM/STAFF
Kara Keale talks with junior Tyeshia Williams during her AP U.S. History Class at Burke High School. GRACE BEAHM/STAFF

In Kara Keale’s AP U.S. History class at Burke High School, junior Rashon Young scanned an article for a class project on about a speech Hillary Clinton had made following the shooting at Emanuel AME Church.

On a purple sheet of construction paper, he jotted down four points with a black Sharpie marker — the salient facts of last summer’s defining tragedy:

June 17, 2015

9 members

Bought gun w/o with permit

Wanted to start a race war

It’s not uncommon for the students in Keale’s class to think about the mass shooting at Mother Emanuel. Less than two miles separate Burke and Mother Emanuel, two of Charleston’s most iconic African-American institutions. Keale, Rashon’s teacher, remembers returning to summer school the Thursday after the shootings. Her students had so many questions, some more difficult to answer than others:

Why did this happen?

How did this happen — in the year 2015?

For Charleston social studies teachers such as Keale, a young and passionate Teach for America veteran, a new chapter of American history is being written in their own backyards. The challenge they face is contextualizing the Emanuel AME shooting within the scope of the United States’ brutal history of race and civil rights while being sensitive to their grieving school community, many of whom had family members who were inside the church on the evening Roof quietly slipped in with a pistol in his fanny pack.

“That place will be as pivotal as a Birmingham, as Montgomery, as Selma,” said Michael Allen, a community partnership specialist for the National Park Service who has worked tirelessly to document South Carolina’s historic landmarks. “This is a defining point in our American landscape.”

In Keale’s classroom, where students are queried daily on current events, the Emanuel shooting comes up “every single day,” she said.

“We talk about Walter Scott almost every single day,” she added. “Because it’s the world in which they live and it frames every conversation they have. Whether we’re talking about the progressive movement or antebellum South Carolina, it always come back to how does this impact your life today?”

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SOURCE: The Post and Courier
Deanna Pan