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African American School Teacher Rides Across America

It was the ultimate field trip. On September 22nd, 2007, 57-year-old social studies teacher Miles Dean swung aboard his Arabian-Saddlebred stallion, Sankofa, and began The Modern African American Pioneer Expedition, a six-month, 5,000-mile ride from Manhattan to Los Angeles. Dean’s students, fifth and sixth graders at Chancellor Avenue Elementary School in Newark, New Jersey, along with thousands of other elementary through college students across the nation, followed his journey on the Web. They watched, listened, and interacted with him as he visited national landmarks, interviewed African American studies experts, and discovered America as many pioneers had discovered it: from the back of a trusty horse.

“Most American schoolchildren are unaware of the role African Americans and their horses played in the exploration, expansion, and settlement of the United States,” says Dean. “Through the expedition, those students rode with me across America, learned about African American explorers, soldiers, pioneers, cowgirls and cowboys, and discovered that no matter what their circumstances they, like their ancestors, can be trailblazers, too.”

Dean and Sankofa successfully completed the expedition on April 1st, 2008. Yet its legacy continues to touch and change lives. As the co-founder and director of The Black Heritage Riders, Dean provides educational equestrian programs blending history, horsemanship, and motivational learning in riding demonstrations, community workshops, and camps for inner city youth. For Memorial Day weekend 2009, Dean has organized The National Day of the Black Jockey celebration at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. The celebration will include educational workshops, a gala ball, a horse show, a parade, and a memorial tribute to the Black Jockey. Dean, Sankofa and their journey are also featured in Vanessa Wright’s exhibit, "The Literary Horse: When Legends Come to Life," which is touring public and school libraries through 2012.

"Wherever I have traveled, people have said that this journey is historic," says Dean. "But I tell them: this is what we do. Our ancestors did it, we’re still doing it, and we’re going to keep on making history."

To learn more about Miles and Sankofa, or to ride with them across America in The Modern African American Pioneer Expedition, please visit http://www.MilesDean.com.

 

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