The following article was written by Michael Taylor '25 on his experience and work with the Troutbeck Symposium.
What if I told you that, before Rosa Parks, there was a woman named Claudette Colvin that refused to give up her seat on the bus at the age of 15? Unlike Rosa Parks, however, Claudette Colvin seems to have been lost in history, rarely found in textbooks, children's books. I do not even know of a street named after her.
I am a junior at the Salisbury School in Salisbury, Connecticut, originally from the Bronx, NY, and Ghana. I am taking a course called Coloring Our Past. We are a project-based learning class that discovers and shares lost, buried, or ignored history with local connections. The culmination of our work is a presentation of our work at the Troutbeck Symposium. This year featured students from 10 independent and public schools in the grades of 5-12 who shared stories about the Pequot War, Anti-Semitism, eugenics, the Little Rock Nine, a mysterious portrait, and much more.
I have researched stories of black women that aren’t in textbooks. Doing this work gives me a little sense of accomplishment, but not really, because I know there are a lot more stories to uncover. These stories have a national impact like the history of school segregation. Many of these themes still impact today.
I have not had a lot of history schooling. My family is from Ghana. I learned by listening to my Mom and Dad taught share anecdotes about Ghana. My previous school had a humanities program that emphasized ELA (English, language, and Art). I took AP History at Salisbury, but I found it was a lot of speeding through textbooks. This was fine, but it did not engage me in the way that learning about how prominent black women were able to impact black history and black culture does. It enables me to see myself in these stories and celebrate the way they were raised, their strength, their resilience.
Learning history this way is important because we’re a country that prides itself on being progressive and always evolving, but our education system hasn’t. History is being taught in textbooks, like that could ever cover the full story. When students have to authentically research and design ways to tell and deliver these stories, they use tools that will help them in their future. They know how to get fully educated about what American history is, what their family’s history is, and how they tie into the larger narrative that is America. That would be a fundamental part of a student’s development.
This makes me feel accomplished, but not really, because I know there is a lot more.