By the end of seventh grade, Whitney Wyche had learned about Ancient Greece and Rome, British kings and French monarchs.
“I’ve always learned about how great a lot of the European empires are. But we never really got to learn about African civilizations,” said the student at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School.
When she heard about a new after-school program focused on learning the history of the African diaspora, she signed up.
“I thought it would be great to see where I come from,” said the 13-year-old, whose father’s side of the family is of African descent.
A similar feeling compelled English teacher Keedra Gibba to start the program in the fall.
“There’s not a lot in the curriculum at all about Africans and people of African descent,” she said.
Each week, around 10 students meet in a classroom to discuss everything from African history to current events.
Ms. Gibba also dedicates time to learning about Ghanaian culture and writing to three pen pals at an international school in Ghana. The program will culminate in a week-long trip to Ghana in the spring.
“I want to prepare them a little for what they’ll see in Ghana,” Ms. Gibba said.
Most of what the students had already learned about Africa in elementary school was focused on the slave trade — the tragic, rather than the positives that have come out of the continent, Ms. Gibba said.
The class is also a place to dispel misconceptions about Africa.
When the media’s coverage of the Ebola crisis peaked in December, the school moved to cancel the Ghana trip, although there was no Ebola epidemic in the country.
She and parents of students in the program were able to reverse the decision.
“We don’t want to send the message that Africa is a country,” Ms. Gibba said.
On Monday, after a discussion of Marcus Garvey’s plan to bring former slaves back to Africa after abolition — the class will visit his house in Ghana during their trip — Fieldston parent Julia Boahene joined the class to answer questions about growing up in Ghana.