Filling a black history void

Barbara Junious would tell her grandchildren stories of what it was like growing up as a young African American girl in Tennessee and as an adult in Chicago during the civil rights movement, but she realized that aside from her stories, they didn't know much about black history.

She decided she would take it upon herself to not only education them on the subject but teach anyone else who was interested as well.

For the past five months, Junious, 78, has organized free "Learning Black History" lectures at her home in Huntington Beach.

Groups of about eight to 10 people of various ages and ethnic backgrounds meet every other week in her garage. The students learn about the classes through local churches and fliers that Junious distributes.

Bea Jones, Junious' friend, supplies the learning material and leads the 1 1/2-hour lecture.

"We're just two old ladies that want to do something that will be useful for everybody to know and to learn," Junious said. "We just want them to learn about our people the same way they learn about the Jews, the Italians and Hispanics. Everybody has their culture."

Jones, 73, of Garden Grove, isn't a stranger to African American history. She studied the topic at Northeastern University and is a longtime member of the Assn. for the Study of African American Life and History.

"I know a little bit about black history and that's why I teach it," she said with a laugh.

The lectures Junious has organized don't count for academic credit, but that doesn't stop Jones from using a traditional classroom format.

Jones said homework assignments and tests are given to the students, and she expects everyone to participate in discussions.

Topics range from important African American women, the universal African flag and the Black Panthers, she said.

Jones added that the lectures are a give-and-take process: She teaches her students key figures from the past while they can update her on the important people in the present.

"Black history is important because it's the greatest part of American history," she said. "If you don't understand the impact of African Americans to the American story, you've got a distorted view of America. African American history is just a part of what makes America [what it is], but it's an integral part."

Junious said she hopes to see the program become a nonprofit and move into a facility where she and her friend can properly teach the community about black history. She knows that achieving that goal will be difficult but is determined to do whatever it takes to make her dream come true.

"There's success and there's failures," Junious said. "There's going to be people who would help you, and there will be people that die and go to hell before they would help you, but I am all geared for that. If I can't get help, I'm going as far as I can by myself. If I fail, so be it. And if I don't fail, at least I helped somebody."

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