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New Approach to Teaching History of African-Americans & Mexican Americans Comes to Internet

A unique approach to teaching history is being used to tell the stories of African Americans and Mexican Americans. Robert Miller, formerly Director of Educational Publishing at Thirteen/WNET, New York City’s flagship public television station, has designed a newspaper format to teach the history of Black Americans and Latinos. Both projects appear on a new Web site, www.ourthistoryasnews.org .

“This format is engaging, exciting, immediate,” Miller says. “Because we use advertisements, short news articles and original illustrations, as well as feature stories and editorials, we offer people with all levels of reading skills the opportunity to learn.”

The projects come as sets of newspaper – fourteen issues of Black Chronicle and nine bi-lingual issues of La Cronica. The Black Chronicle tells the story of African Americans from 1778, when Rhode Island Slaves were promised their freedom if they fought in the Colonial armies, through the Civil War, when over 400,000 black men fought in the Union Armies, though the lynchings and the founding of the NAACP in the early 1900s, the African American contributions in both World Wars, up through 1954, when Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus and the Civil Rights movement gained powerful momentum.

In La Cronica, the story of Mexican Americans begins in 1835 when California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas were still part of northern Mexico. It continues through the Mexican American War of 1846, when, Miller says, “many claim that the U.S. ‘stole’ northern Mexico,” up through the New Mexico range wars of the 1870s, through the farm and mining immigrations, and the Civil Rights movements and Caesar Chavez, until 1969, when Latino students walked out of Los Angeles high schools to protest a century and a half of discrimination.”

Miller started the Black Chronicle back in 1969. He brought the idea to Henry Hampton, of Blackside, Inc., producer of the award-winning Civil Rights documentary “Eyes on the Prize.”

“Henry loved the idea and told me I could develop it under Blackside’s umbrella,” Miller says. “His vision was to open Blackside to people of all races and colors if they had ideas that would help bring about social justice.”

Miller did research for two years in the world’s finest collections of black history, including the New York Public Library’s Arthur C. Schomberg Collection in Harlem, the Widener Library at Harvard, and the Boston Public Library. La Cronica, his next project, in English and Spanish, was developed with partial funding by the Ford Foundation. He developed La Cronica in Los Angeles, with research teams throughout the Southwest sending in materials from libraries and historical societies.