Local historian offers Black history lessons for community


By WVUA 23 News Reporter A’Leeyah Ponder

One Tuscaloosan has spent a good portion of her life collecting and compiling lessons and memorabilia showcasing national and local Black history events, and she’s more than happy to share her knowledge.

Valerie Hawkins said her favorite parts — and the ones she’s most likely to share — are those moments that aren’t as well-known.

Her interest in the topic was piqued by family members sharing stories passed down from generation to generation, detailing the life of slaves and the horrors they went through. She wanted to pass those stories down to yet another generation. But at some point, telling these stories to her own children was no longer enough.

“They need to know from whence they came,” said Hawkins. “So when (they) walk out there saying Black Lives Matter, OK, remember this is why Black Lives Matter.”

Hawkins said her goal is helping people learn, and that’s the thing that brings her the most joy.

“When people say ‘Mrs. Hawkins, I thank you so, so very much’ and they come back and are like ‘Mrs. Valerie, we have somebody else who wants to learn,’ it makes me feel it’s like I’m walking on air,” Hawkins said. “This is what I do and I love it.”

Her love for history and collection of Black history memorabilia has touched local lives of all ages.

“It’s inspiring, and it’s amazing how much motivation she has to do this one project,” said 11-year-old Jazia, who’s taken an interest in Hawkins’ history lessons.

Jazia is one of the many students who visit Hawkins’ home to learn what they don’t have the chance to learn in school. And these lessons will last a lifetime.

Those who know Hawkins say her commitment to learning and teaching Black history is bigger than passing interest. It’s her life’s passion.

“We don’t always know what God’s work is for us, but when you have a passion about something, most of the time that’s what he’s got for us to do,” said long-time friend Linda Lowe.

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