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KNOXVILLE — Students at Gibbs High School in northeast Knox County wanted to have a special program to celebrate Black History Month, but they needed ideas.

The Africana Studies program at the University of Tennessee was eager to help.

The result will look like an episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and students will learn about many famous African-American historical figures, inventors and musicians. The program will begin at 2 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25, in the Gibbs High School auditorium.

Students under the direction of Becky Parris, an English and theater teacher at Gibbs, will dress up as famous people such as George Washington Carver, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali and Condoleezza Rice. They will be interviewed by another student dressed as Oprah.

Parris got the idea from students at UT who took an African-American history class taught by Raymond Hall. In the class, they pretended to be historical figures interviewed by Oprah. Parris invited Hall and the students to talk to her students at Gibbs last month about putting on a similar program.

UT students also will participate in the program Monday by giving a presentation about African-American inventors.

The program will end with Gibbs students discussing African-American musicians and playing CDs of their music.

“African-Americans were involved in virtually all developments in the making of the United States,” says Wornie Reed, professor and director of Africana Studies. “However, this history is often the ‘missing pages’ in American history textbooks. Current books and courses in African-American history, as well as celebrations of black history, are, in essence, efforts to restore these missing pages.”

Parris says her students benefited from talking with UT students and Hall about the program.

“UT is a wonderful resource. I have gotten help in the past from the theater and creative writing departments and now Africana Studies,” she says. “The university is a great asset for Knox County teachers.”


Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179,

Becky Parris, (865) 689-9130, ext. 204,

Raymond Hall, (865) 974-5052,