Speaker Brings Black History Alive at Park Avenue

Speaker Brings Black History Alive at Park Avenue photo

NY1 news anchor Cheryl Wills inspired students at Park Avenue Memorial Elementary to learn more about their family histories.

Ms. Wills, a Long Island resident who speaks at schools across the country, visited Park Avenue on Feb. 26 for Black History Month. She shared the tale of her great-great-great-grandfather Sandy Wills who was a slave in Tennessee and later became a freedom fighter as a member of the United States Army in the Civil War. The story inspired her two books, “The Emancipation of Grandpa Sandy Wills” and “Emancipated: My Family’s Fight for Freedom.” She provided signed copies of each for the school library. 

“The best education is knowing who you are,” Ms. Wills told the students. “We all have incredible stories.”

With nonfiction writing a major component of literacy instruction at Park Avenue, Ms. Wills spoke to students about using primary sources of information when they research a topic. She explained how she used census data and other records to learn about her family history. Ms. Wills encouraged the children to take full advantage of their educational opportunities and asked them to salute their teachers with a round of applause. 

Her visit was coordinated by librarian Timothy Quinn with support from the Amityville Parent-Teacher Council. Mr. Quinn said the presentation supported Black History Month lessons that have taken place at the school throughout February.

Classroom teachers focused on significant yet lesser-known African-American figures in American history. In art, students made Kente cloth designs, African mask scratch art and African necklaces. Music classes featured lessons on how escaping slaves used music as code on the Underground Railroad.