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Depiction of black struggles colors presentation to TBE students

Depiction of black struggles colors presentation to TBE students

By Marci Elliott

Oliver Phipps told fourth-and fifth-graders at Tommie Barfield Elementary School last week that there were more ? many more ? people involved in black history and the civil rights movement than just Martin Luther King Jr.

“But Martin Luther King was a great man ? a very great man,” he emphasized.

Phipps, principal of Estates Elementary, visited the TBE pupils Feb. 10 as part of the school’s Black History Month series, which includes numerous projects at all grade levels.

Phipps called his presentation Black History: Past, Present and Future. He used slides with photographs depicting black history and civil rights from the days of slavery to today’s current events.

Principal Jory Westberry introduced Phipps as “my very good friend.”

“He started working in Collier County schools about 50 years ago,” she kidded. “But now he has Power Point and all kinds of technology to help him in his presentation.”

Phipps spoke to about 200 pupils in an informal manner, using anecdotes from his own family to demonstrate points. He also used a lot of humor, which made a hit with the kids.

He began his presentation with some facts about slavery and the suffering it caused Africans brought to this country by boats on agonizing three-to six-month journeys.

“There was no soap and water for them,” Phipps said, painting a picture of what it must have been like for the soon-to-be slaves. “If the boat got too heavy, guess who got thrown overboard?”

He told how slaves were sold for $1,000 each, a lot of money back then, and how their families were divided and sold to different owners. And he told of black people like Harriet Tubman, who formed an “underground railroad” to free slaves and help them escape from the South, where slavery was dominant.

Phipps told about a long list of contributors not only to the Civil Rights Movement, but to American culture and industry in general, people like Carter W. Goodson, who started Black History Month in 1915; Henry “Box” Brown, who shipped himself in a box to Pittsburgh to escape slavery; Levi Coffin, a rich man who sheltered 1,000 blacks in his home; Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist; Harriet Beecher Stowe, who described what slavery was really like in her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Rosa Parks, famous for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man; and many black inventors.

Phipps’ presentation included a chronological summary of the events that took place during the development of civil rights, such as segregation; the Brown vs. Board of Education lawsuit that desegregated schools; King’s assassination; and other landmark events.

The one recurring theme throughout Phipps’ presentation was the importance of education.

“If you can read, you can learn. If you can learn, you can become educated,” he said. “If you have an education, you have power ? because education is power. The most important thing you can do is to empower yourself with education.”

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