After receiving the widely circulated calendar recognizing distinguished African-Americans from South Carolina for more than 25 years, history came full circle for Dr. James L. Moore III when he was recently selected to be in it.
Nearly 100,000 children across the Palmetto State can expect to see Moore and 11 other influential African-American figures celebrated in the 29th edition of the South Carolina African-American History Calendar, unveiled on October 3 at the Koger Center for the Arts in Columbia, South Carolina.
“Being a state that is 30 percent Black, it’s very important that young people recognize the contributions of African-Americans,” said Moore, the executive director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African-American Male at Ohio State University and a nationally recognized expert on Black males. “Sometimes it’s portrayed in popular and scientific literature that African-Americans have not made any contributions to this country, and that’s far from the truth.”
His inclusion in the calendar brought back personal memories of his late mother who worked to get Moore a calendar every year since 1990.
“My mother, many years ago when I was in undergrad, used to send care packages and write notes and she said, ‘Son, look at this calendar…look at all of these wonderful African-Americans from my beloved South Carolina. Someday son, I can see you being in that calendar.’ And that’s what made that calendar so significant. She’s not here in the flesh…but it was a testimonial to what my mom saw in me.”
This year is the first year that the South Carolina Department of Education is the lead sponsor for the calendar. Previously, AT&T has presented the calendar for the last 29 years and it is a key sponsor in the calendar’s publication.
“The South Carolina African-American History Calendar honors our neighbors and friends who have lived their lives well,” said Molly M. Spearman, South Carolina Superintendent of Education. “It is my hope that their courage and determination will inspire you as students and citizens of South Carolina to strive to make a positive difference in our state and nation.”
Educators throughout the state will be able to use the calendar to inspire their own students and can include each year’s honorees as a part of their classroom instruction. Just last week, Amy Fabel, a social studies teacher at Lewisville High School in South Carolina reached out to Moore asking to include his philosophy in her teaching plan.
“I am currently writing a lesson plan about you,” Fabel’s email read. “My focus is rather broad, but centered around the relationship between social context and opportunity.”
“It was humbling because I’m in my mid 40s and until I got that email, I didn’t feel like I was a part of the history,” said Moore, who is also the EHE Distinguished Professor of Urban Education and interim vice provost for Diversity and Inclusion and chief diversity officer at OSU.
Born in Lyman, S.C, Moore developed an interest in creating pathways for Black males in education because throughout his own journey through the educational pipeline — and up to his own graduation at Delaware State — he watched “fewer and fewer” of the young men he grew up with succeed or even graduate. “I made a commitment in my life that I would try to use my lot in life to improve the quality of life for Black males,” he said.
When he began his work, however, there were few scholars who focused solely on Black males and critics questioned why Moore wanted to narrowly focus on this group.
“It was conveyed to me, in subtle ways, ‘Why would you want to waste a career to focus on such a group?’ ‘Why wouldn’t you want to broaden your career?’ or ‘Your career could be dampened because you’re so narrowly focused,’” he said. “I decided it was my career, and if you look at the word ‘vocation’ in Latin, it means calling. I like to see this work as my calling. I virtually would do this work for free.”
Now as the director of the first of its kind resource center focusing specifically on Black males and their educational development, Moore has worked with other universities, school districts, policy makers, scholars and nonprofits to help build the capacity for success for Black males nationally and globally. He and Dr. Jerlando F.L Jackson recently convened the sixth annual International Colloquium on Black Males in Education in Toronto. And last year, the center had a total of 500 African-American males with accumulative GPAs of 3.0 or better, Moore said.
Still, the distinguished professor and educator said that “the educational state for Black males won’t make the kinds of leaps that we want until the country begins to recognize [that] it’s not just Black males that are not fairing well.”
“Education is arguably our greatest civil rights quest in the twenty first century, and too many young people are not afforded a world class education,” Moore added.
Moore’s advocacy and achievements serve as a testament of success for what he hopes to inspire in children across his home state, and young Black males specifically. He said that he aspires to be like Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, another influential African-American scholar and educator dedicated to the development of Black males, who Moore now shares a space with in the South Carolina African-American Calendar.
“To me, he is the greatest architectural developer of Black males that ever lived, certainly in the 20th century, but arguably who ever lived in this country,” Moore said. “My goal is to have the kind of impact or to build on the impact that he stirred up many years ago.”
Moore also hopes that the continuation of the African-American calendar will demonstrate the legacy of his beloved South Carolina as an incubator for Black excellence. “It is important to me because it was an inspiration in my life recognizing that I come from a state that is not always recognized [and] not always glamorized, but it has a strong history of producing excellence among the African-American community,” he said.
The distinguished calendar has featured African-Americans such as Ronald McNair, Dizzy Gillespie, Eartha Kit, Althea Gibson, James Brown, Joe Frazier, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Charles Bolden and Marian Wright Edelman. Moore will be featured for the month of November 2018.
Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.