Teaching Black history during Black History Month is not as easy as it once was amid ongoing critical race theory debates plaguing school systems, leading Ernest Crim III to take his Black history lessons beyond the classroom.
“I have kids that’s come to me and say, Mr. Crim is this true? They’re learning on TikTok already and we have to meet them where they are on social media period and show them how to fact check things and validate a source. You’re banning books but then there’s Kindle and there’s YouTube,” Crim said of teaching today’s youth.
Ernest Crim III is in his 12th year of teaching history, currently at Joliet Township High School in Joliet, Illinois, about 45 miles south of Chicago. Teaching Black history is a passion of his and last year, he launched a Black history TikTok series where he would occasionally post short video clips on key figures in Black history.
This includes Carter Woodson, who helped establish Black History week which turned into Black History Month; Robert Smalls, who was born into enslavement and later became one of the Navy’s first Black pilots and served five terms in Congress and ultimately bought the land he was born into while enslaved. It didn’t take long for the videos to gain traction and go viral, garnering millions of views.
Crim shared about one of his more popular videos. “Off the top of my head would have to be the Aunt Polly video, for one that’s given me the most traction and exposure and that was the first G video to hit a million. Amanda Seales showed me a lot of love, Ben Crump, D.L. Hughley posted it, but I love it because I had just learned about her story before I posted it and the picture; you can just see she wasn’t playing,” Crim said.
Going into this year’s Black History Month, Crim challenged himself to create the “28 Gs of History,” where he educates his 260,000 followers on the likes of Johnny Gray, Jourdon Anderson, Biddy Mason and many more.
“I like the ambiguity with it because people don’t always know what I mean when I say ‘G.’ It’s like does he mean gangster and I’m like yeah, kind of because we play by our own rules in our fight for freedom. Does he mean GOAT, yeah because we are the greatest of all time. God, general; whatever you want to apply to it that’s positive, that’s what it means,” Crim said.
For Crim, Black history extends beyond the 28 days in February, and he hopes others learning Black history facts from his TikTok video series take away not only the racism and oppression Black people faced, but how they resisted and overcame those obstacles.
“As a history teacher, if we start with Black history and we start with 1619, I think we get so caught up in the oppression we faced, and I don’t think we focus enough on how we fought back, and we are fighters, and I think we have to focus on that more,” Crim said.
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