Virginia Educator is Using Field Trips to Teach Black Students About State’s History as Birthplace of American Slavery


March 19, 2024

The history lessons are right in their own backyard.

NBC NEWS–which accompanied students on the excursion–reports that Edwin Allison, a veteran African American history teacher at Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia, is taking a unique approach to educating his students about the state’s complex history as the birthplace of American slavery. Through field trips to historic sites like Fort Monroe, Allison is providing his students with tangible connections to the past and empowering them to confront the realities of systemic racism in America.

Credit: Kyna Uwaeme for NBC News

“For me, it was like… I felt it. I felt it. It was just a little off. It was kind of surreal, knowing enslaved people got off boats here. It hit me,” shared Justice Alexander, a senior at Granby High School, as he reflected on his experience stepping onto the grounds of Fort Monroe.


Despite the controversy surrounding such field trips, Allison firmly believes they are necessary for students to grasp the gravity of slavery’s legacy. “When your school is 20 minutes from this historic place, it makes sense to take them there so they can see it and feel it. It makes a big difference,” Allison emphasized.

Accompanied by his classmates, Alexander embarked on a journey that would not only educate but also inspire. “The trip reinforced what I already knew about the true nature of slavery in this country,” Alexander said. “I see how precarious my position is as a Black person in America. That’s empowering.”

Reflecting on the nature of the course, Alexander added, “You learn, but it’s learning that will stay with you and have an impact on you and how you look at the world.”


For Allison, the trip to Fort Monroe reaffirmed his commitment to teaching Black history. “Teaching is a blessing for me,” he said. “It’s intrinsic. When kids come back 10, 15 years later and say, ‘Mr. Allison, you were a part of my success,’ that’s powerful.”

Students like Ariyana Roman and Malaundra Cook echo the sentiment that learning Black history enhances their understanding of themselves and their communities. “The class acknowledges all that’s happened and how we can learn and be better for it,” Roman explained.

Cook finds empowerment in the resilience of everyday people, stating, “There’s no better way to learn your history than to actively be a part of it.”


Despite facing opposition in some quarters, Allison remains undeterred in his mission to empower students through education. “The tears come from various places,” Allison shared. “Anger. Deep pain. Frustration. Caring. They can all come together at once.”

In a time when efforts to suppress the teaching of African American history are on the rise, educators like Edwin Allison are invaluable. Through his dedication, Allison has left an impact on the lives of his students, who recognize him as a special educator with a profound understanding of history.

Cover photo: Justice Alexander, a student at Granby High School, on the bus headed to Fort Monroe / Credit: Kyna Uwaeme for NBC News


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