African drums and American blues enrich Black History celebration

Goshen students explore the black experience in America through culture and history


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  • Pam Murphy’s music students play different African drums (Photo provided)




  • Students learn about black writers by putting together puzzles (Photo provided)




  • Students in Gina Angelo’s classes watch videos about The Great Migration (Photo provided)




  • Elementary students try scatting with puppets during music class (Photo provided)




— Sophie Levenberg’s music students at Scotchtown Avenue Elementary School wrote and sang their own blues song, “The Teddy Bear Blues." They tried scatting using puppets. They danced to Duke Ellington’s swing tune “It Don’t Mean a Thing.”

They were learning about the varieties of influential music in recognition of February as Black History Month. Several teachers at Scotchtown incorporated black history into their lesson plans.

At C.J. Hooker Middle School, Pam Murphy’s general music students learned about different African drums and a local celebrity who persevered in music and theater despite a difficult upbringing. Samuel E. Wright, who lives in Walden, is the voice of Sebastian the crab on Disney’s "The Little Mermaid," for which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Song for “Under the Sea.” He also played the part of Mufasa in the original cast of "The Lion King" on Broadway, for which he received a Tony Award nomination.

Samuel was born in South Carolina during segregation, when blacks were forced to use separate water fountains, schools and bathrooms. He left South Carolina for New York City, determined to make it on Broadway, and was homeless until he got his big break during an open call for Jesus Christ Superstar.

Social Studies students in Gina Angelo’s classes learned about the African-American experience during the Roaring 20s, at the time of the First Great Migration, when more than one million African Americans left the South for northern cities, in 1910-1930; The Race Riot of 1919 in Omaha, where rioting by whites resulted in the murder of African-American Will Brown; the Harlem Renaissance, the vibrant African American cultural movement of writers, musicians and poets who reacted against racial bias; and the Universal Negro Improvement Association, an organization founded by Marcus Garvey to promote black pride and unity.






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