Jane Elliott is a former third-grade schoolteacher, anti-racism activist, and educator. She is known for her “Blue eyes–Brown eyes” activity that I first learned about on the Oprah Winfrey show about 30 years ago when I was a teenager. She first conducted her famous exercise for her class on April 5, 1968, the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. She garnered widespread attention when her local newspaper published essays that the children had written about the experience. Shortly after, she began a long-time career as an outspoken public speaker against racism and discrimination. Jane Elliott came to DC’s Anne Beers Elementary school this week and my daughter and I were thrilled to be able to watch Eye of the Storm together and meet Jane Elliott afterward. During Ms. Elliott’s talk, she told us many things about the reasons she believes it is imperative that parents advocate against the indoctrination of their children to be obsessed about skin color and separation instead of commonality and unity. She weaved many lessons into her talk that described what her life was like during and after she first implemented the Blue eye-brown eye activity.
Elliott’s classroom exercise was filmed the third time she held it with her 1970 third-graders to become The Eye of the Storm. This in turn inspired a retrospective that reunited the 1970 class members with their teacher fifteen years later in A Class Divided. After leaving her school, Elliott became a diversity educator full-time. She still holds the exercise and gives lectures about its effects all over the U.S. and in several locations overseas. I introduced my daughter to her work a couple of years ago and she has been a fan ever since. My daughter insisted that we stay after the talk to take photos and I am glad that we did. I got to personally tell her how much I love her and appreciate her work and she told me she loved me, too. We exchanged hugs and smiles and ended a wonderful experience.
Khadijah Z. Ali-Coleman is a homeschooling mother, a multi-media strategist and professional creative who has built an expansive interdisciplinary career as a professional in higher education, media, student development and the arts. You can join her mailing list and register for her courses for homeschooling families at StudentMediaOnline.com