Chuck Yarborough empowers young people to reveal a richer, more complete understanding of our collective past.
Chuck Yarborough is a sixth-generation Mississippian who grew up on the Gulf Coast. After studying at Vanderbilt University and the University of Mississippi, in 1994, he joined the staff of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science in Columbus, with a vision to teach history more holistically, in ways that encourage students to recognize and question the systems of inequity around them.
Chuck Yarborough doesn’t rely only on textbooks to share the complexities of history with his students. Instead, he sends them to original sources, to surface untold stories. Over two decades, he has built an effective curriculum by challenging students to research real people who lived in their community, then to share their findings in public performances. These projects — “Tales from the Crypt” and “The 8th of May Emancipation Celebration” — not only enrich students’ lives, but also stimulate community discourse on issues of race, class, and the meaning of democracy.
In Mississippi and across the country, public conversation is shaped by common, yet incomplete, narratives. For example, in Lowndes County, where the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science is located, only five out of 33 state historic markers commemorate or mention African American contributions, despite the fact that African Americans had been the majority of the population for over a century, until 1930. There is also little acknowledgement of immigrants, women, or Indigenous people.
As an Emerson Collective Fellow, Chuck will expand his existing projects into a history curriculum called the “MoreStory Initiative.” The initiative will take what students discover and use it to expand public knowledge of local historical figures and events. It will release performance products developed from student research, and create new local historic markers. At the same time, it will develop a model that can be replicated in other communities across the country. The goal: More complete local histories that add to a community’s understanding of itself.