Telling History's Full Story

Maggie Chipman, Communications Fellow
Mr. Steve Goode's upper-level African American history class transforms the way CM students think about African American history in the context of American and global history.
West Roxbury, Mass.-- Every teacher’s desk is filled with the essentials — pens, paper, and these days, a mask. But Mr. Steve Goode’s drawer holds something unique: A ball of real, seeded cotton.

To Mr. Goode, the cotton is a tangible introduction to the topics of slavery, King Cotton, and the economics of the antebellum American South.

“These boys have never held a piece of cotton before,” Mr. Goode says.

“It’s important to give them that experience.”

In his African American History class at Catholic Memorial School, Mr. Goode wants his students to understand much more than just an introduction to these topics. By the end of the semester, he expects the class to bridge America’s history of race with the current events of the present for the juniors and seniors who enroll.

After all, as Mr. Goode explains, “If you have not been taught, how can you be held accountable?”

Now in its second year, Mr. Goode’s African American History course tells the story of African American history in the context of American and global histories. In doing so, it encourages students to think deeper about the origins of Black History Month and the social movements of the 21st century. Topics range from African American luminaries to affirmative action policies, from Civil War history to today’s Black Lives Matter movement.

Mr. Vin Bradley, CM’s History Department Chair, believes Mr. Goode is the perfect instructor for the course, which exists as an upper-level elective in the History Department.

“Mr. Goode possesses a real passion, interest, and knowledge in history, culture, and politics,” Mr. Bradley says.

“A welcome addition to our History Department, Mr. Goode has developed African American History and African Diaspora into a unique experience for our seniors this year.”

Mr. Goode wants the young men in his classroom to grow into scholars and allies. He believes that there is more to race in America than blackness and whiteness and seeks to illuminate stories that have not been told in classes past. This tenet motivated him to propose the course to the History Department in the first place.

His mantra — that every student is smart, that they can work hard, and that they can be somebody — allows his students to engage with his source material and stories told, Mr. Goode says. In fact, he frequently showcases Black cartoonists, authors, and inventors. Mr. Goode also has a display of books lining the back of his classroom for continuing education. He hopes that the boys will take from and add to the library.

This class extends beyond the traditional textbook, too.

“The boys can learn about anything through six lenses,” Mr. Goode says.

“I teach them the technological, psychological, political, social, economic, and religious perspective. They’ll always have a way to think about something,”

Such examples include lesson plans about lenses of media bias, propaganda tactics, figures such as the late Representative John Lewis, Black artists, the history of the cotton gin, and Black popes, respectively. As someone who has personally met Barack Obama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Condoleezza Rice, and Mr. Lewis, Mr. Goode says his life stories provide his students with an experience few other classes could provide.

These topics allow CM boys to leave Mr. Goode’s class with more than just a grade.

“Mr. Goode challenges students to stretch themselves intellectually and morally,” explains Mr. Bradley.

It’s a class with tests and papers, but far more than academics, Mr. Goode is carefully preparing the young men for life beyond Baker Street. This, he says, is a parting gift to his seniors. 

“You can’t do this job without love for the boys,” Mr. Goode says.

“I think this course is something they’ll have for the rest of their lives.”

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Catholic Memorial, the Christian Brothers School of Boston, prepares boys for college, manhood and a world full of unknown challenges, ambiguity and complex problems and the importance of relationships.

CATHOLIC MEMORIAL SCHOOL

235 Baker Street
West Roxbury, Massachusetts 02132
Phone: 617-469-8000
Fax: 617-977-5689