Jacksonville educator dresses up as historical figures for Black History Month

Educator showcases unique approach to Black History Month

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When Angela Riley speaks, students at Don Brewer Elementary School listen.

“I really enjoy it because it gives us a really nice visual,” fifth grader Hannah Gonzalez said.

“It” is RIley dressing up as prominent black leaders during Black History Month. The paraprofessional has done it every year since the school opened in 2002.

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"Not only do I dress as the character, but I do bring a mini-history lesson to them,” she explained.

So far in February, Riley has been Sojourner Truth, Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass and her favorite -- Harriet Tubman.

On Monday?

“I am Ellen Craft, and this is my husband. William and Ellen Craft. They both were slaves. Ellen was the product of a mulatto slave and her white master, so she was very fair to the point where she could pass for white. She dressed up as a white male planter and she took along her black husband as her personal servant. And so, she carried herself as though she was injured or she was ill, so he get on the train and (took) care of her as her personal servant,” Riley said.

The historical figures are a hit.

"I think my favorite character would be Frederick Douglas,” fifth grader Ciara Nyedrysek said.


"Because I like it how he played music and all that."

Riley doesn't know what the future holds, but said one thing is for sure. She'll keep helping students learn the best way she knows how.

During the month of March -- which is Women's History Month -- she dresses up as important female figures.