SPRINGFIELD, Mo.– Many students of color say they grew up in school systems that didn’t teach them and their peers about Black history. But why?

“I didn’t learn a lot about Black history until I got to college. I think that would have better helped me understand I would have been more of what had happened,” Sam Johnson, a student at Missouri State University told KOLR10 Reporter Nyzah McDonald.

Gwendolyn Marshall serves as a Diversity and Equity Specialist for Springfield Public Schools.

“We didn’t see that that piece of history may have been so important,” she told McDonald.

“We also may have felt [like], ‘Who would take that class? Who would be interested in you know that phase of history?’,” Marshall added.

Marshall says this presented a gap. But she adds, as society progresses, students across the U.S. are, in fact, showing interest in that part of history.

“I would hope that they would start teaching it as soon as they start teaching other history too,” Sam Johnson told McDonald.

“Our young people need to know that we have always been here and have been a part of the fabric of what the United States is,” Marshall added.

Marshall says that realization will require an expansion of what and who we expose our students to. It may also require sharing with them the “ugly truth” about Black history.

“It’s very important that we go beyond the Martin Luther King who we dearly love and look at the Fannie Lou Hamers, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ida B. Wells and all of those that came before…some names that we very rarely call,” Marshall says.

“To think about the Tulsa riots and maybe the lynchings on the square in 1906…..and bringing that to the forefront…valuable lessons in that,” she adds.

“It’s painful and raw you get a sense of like I can’t believe they did that. But yeah, we have to learn about it to just keep moving forward,” Johnson says.

These lessons, Marshall says, reveal the tenacity and strength of Black people. Finally, she says she acknowledges the steps we as a community have taken but knows how far we still have to go.