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Bolles Celebrates Black History Month


Throughout February, all four Bolles campuses are honoring Black History Month with a variety of assemblies and educational activities, including several curricular lessons aiming to facilitate student understanding and reflection at the classroom level.

The celebration kicked-off February 1 with a virtual convocation on the Middle School Bartram Campus featuring local author, artist and educator Ebony Payne-English. She recited two poems and answered questions from the middle school students during her virtual visit. Local artist, speaker, storyteller, poet and community leader Shawana Brooks led a convocation at the middle school on February 8. Bartram Campus Chef Ryan Dallas will bring his jazz band, 4-Mation, to campus in mid-February for an Activities period concert featuring music inspired by Black Jazz, Gospel and Blues artists. Music of Black artists will play all month on both the middle and upper school campuses.

From an academic perspective, lessons on Black history events are set to reach students in classrooms across all campuses. On the Bolles Upper School San Jose Campus, students in all English classes will discuss the HBO documentary “­­­­True Justice” prior to watching it together this month. The film follows Alabama public interest attorney Bryan Stevenson’s advocacy work on behalf of the poor, incarcerated and condemned as he seeks to eradicate racial discrimination in the criminal justice system. A 2020 News & Documentary Emmy Award-winner, the documentary follows “his struggle to create greater fairness in the system and shows how racial injustice emerged, evolved and continues to threaten the country,” an HBO description reads. Following the screening, students in all History classes will review takeaways from the film in various capacities. The cross-curricular study will provide all students the opportunity to understand the material and its historical context as well as discuss and express what they learned. Upper school students also are learning about key Black history figures from the Black Student Union, which is sharing Black history highlights via the Schoology learning management system all students access throughout the day.

For example, the group shared a section from Jennifer Gomez’ history class addressing the Harlem Hellfighters, the 369th Infantry:

“[They] were one of the few black combat regiments in World War I who earned the prestigious Croix de Guerre from the French army under which they served for six months of ‘brave and bitter fighting.’ The Hellfighters confronted racism even as they trained for war, fought in segregated units, helped bring jazz to France, then battled Germany longer than almost any other American regiment in WWI…Their bravery and accomplishments stood as a rebuke to racism, a moral claim to first-class citizenship and acceptance.”

Upper school visual arts teacher Chris Hicks is celebrating Black History Month via Schoology with a weekly snapshot of modern and contemporary Black artists whose concepts, practice and achievements have impacted the art world in a big way. Most recently, he presented multidisciplinary artist Kehinde Wiley, who is widely acclaimed for his presidential portrait of Barak Obama. “Wiley’s work reimagines the cannon of western art through the lens of contemporary Black culture,” Hicks wrote.

Junior and senior students in the Latin Directed Reading Honors class designed and displayed a bulletin board in the languages hallway that features Black Voices in the Classics, including posters about Fanny Jackson Coppin, Toni Morrison, W.E.B. Du Bois and Phillis Wheatley among others.

bulletin board

Students on the middle school campus also are approaching Black History Month from an academic, artistic and conversational perspective. Advisories are working on a special community art installation. Each group will choose a Black leader – including artists, athletes, authors and speakers – to research. Students are then tasked with highlighting and artistically exhibiting that person’s impact on the world and how it relates to the pillars of The Bolles Way: Pursuing excellence through courage, integrity and compassion. The headshots of selected Black leaders will be hung around campus for all to see and appreciate. The project culminates in “scavenger hunt” that provides an opportunity for every student to learn about all 35 of the people the advisories researched.

School faculty also are utilizing the Schoology platform to share videos and articles addressing Black History month and information about Black community leaders at local and national levels.

Similar academic perspectives of Black History Month are being woven into lessons on both Bolles lower school campuses. On the Bolles Lower School Ponte Vedra Beach Campus, the month-long celebration began February 1 with a presentation from Campus Head Stacey Hendershot honoring the life and inspiration of Jesse Owens. Each day throughout the month, Grade 5 student leaders are announcing and sharing stories of a Black American who have made an impact on American life. During flag convocations, student-directed Black History Month projects are being shared via poetry, slideshows, songs and public speaking. On the Bolles Lower School Whitehurt Campus, the morning broadcast includes spotlights of Black history-makers. Faculty are highlighting Black history in lessons and students are sharing stories of Black Americans who have made a difference within the framework of class projects, convocation presentations and other coursework throughout the month. Both campuses are exhibiting posters on campus that showcase famous Black Americans.



Whitehurst’s Copeland Librarian Jennifer Moore and Ponte Vedra Beach Campus Librarian Christina Karvounis have been engaging students in a two-month unit on people who have demonstrated great courage and during February, many of their stories have revolved around Black History Month. They are looking at artists and poetry from many cultures in February and March. Both libraries’ digital databases include stories and segments on famous Black Americans.

The Swisher Library on the Bolles Upper School San Jose Campus and the Pratt Library on the Bolles Middle School Bartram Campus also have special curated collections of Black authors and Black history.


The Bolles Parent Association Parents for Positive Change Committee has helped support efforts on all four campuses including the creation of informative signs and related media on Black Americans and other events. Additional guest speaker opportunities are also being finalized through this group.

On the activities front, students and School leaders are planning events that will further highlight and celebrate Black history and culture. During first week of February, the Black Student Union presented a Black Owned Business Fair, bringing local business to campus on different days during Activities and lunch periods. More activities sponsored by school clubs, classes and School leaders are underway.