A 1942 banquet honored Chicago’s public school superintendent William Johnson for his attention to a proposed reform of local social studies curricula concerning African American history. On this occasion, Johnson met with South Side schoolteacher Madeline Morgan, an advocate of local black public history. Morgan had devised these curriculum reforms as units for grades 1 through 8. Morgan (later Stratton Morris) taught at Emerson Primary School. In the nearly two years prior to the banquet and at the behest of the district, Morgan and a small team of colleagues had devised history units that would underscore the crucial role African Americans played in the nation’s history from slavery through emancipation and into the twentieth century. From the perspective of those who honored Johnson, his presence at the banquet was more than just a trivial photo opportunity. The banquet was attended by more than three hundred people and sponsored by local middle-class black women’s clubs and civic organizations. Beyond the adulation afforded Johnson, the banquet also recognized the labors of public schoolteachers like Morgan and those of other African American public-history activists and educators who through the 1940s and 1950s sought to revise local curricula to include significant modules on black American history....
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