Black History Month Ideas: The Potato King of the World

Born into slavery on a plantation near Kentucky, Junius G. Groves was six years of age when slavery was abolished in the USA.

20 years later he joined the Exoduster movement and made his way to Kansas.

In 1902 he became known as the Potato King of the World, for growing more bushels of potatoes per acre than anyone in the world up to that point in time.

As a farmer and landowner he employed both whites and blacks on his farm and worked hard on uplifting African–Americans. His employment practices did a lot to combat racism at the time.

Celebrate Black History Month by teaching the attendees about Junius Groves and then running a potato print workshop, giving children the opportunity to carve potatoes into shapes and then printing them onto strips of paper.

Once that is done, you can introduce them to the art of Kente fabric weaving while their potato print strips dry. They can then weave the paper print strips into a paper version of Kente cloth.

Learn about Junius Groves here: https://blackpast.org/aaw/groves-junius-george-1859-1925

Or you could read them No Small Potatoes by Tonya Bolden and Don Tate

Find out more about Kente Cloth paper weaving here: https://kinderart.com/art-lessons/multic/kente-cloth-strips/

When planning the colors you wish to use for the workshop, it is worth keeping their symbolic meanings in mind:

  • black: maturation, intensified spiritual energy
  • blue: peacefulness, harmony and love
  • green: vegetation, planting, harvesting, growth, spiritual renewal
  • gold: royalty, wealth, high status, glory, spiritual purity
  • grey: healing and cleansing rituals; associated with ash
  • maroon: the color of mother earth; associated with healing
  • pink: associated with the female essence of life; a mild, gentle aspect of red
  • purple: associated with feminine aspects of life; usually worn by women
  • red: political and spiritual moods; bloodshed; sacrificial rites and death.
  • silver: serenity, purity, joy; associated with the moon
  • white: purification, sanctification rites and festive occasions
  • yellow: preciousness, royalty, wealth, fertility, beauty

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