Composer, musician Marcus Shelby plays San Francisco students a Black history soundtrack

At Clarendon Alternative Elementary School in San Francisco's Twin Peaks, hundreds of students gathered for a lesson in black history, but with a musical soundtrack.

The guest teacher was well-known Bay Area musician and composer Marcus Shelby. His audience—mainly nine through 11-year-olds.

In short order shelby discussed the historical significance of Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad she used to rescue and guide about 300 slaves to freedom.

"The underground railroad was not a train. It was a series of safe houses," said Shelby.

Only about a tenth of the chidlren at Clarendon are African American.

"Black history is part of all our history. It's not just for black people. It's for all of us," said Shelby.

— Bay Area musician and composer, Marcus Shelby

"Black history is part of all our history. It's not just for black people. It's for all of us," said Shelby.

But the lesson included not only black history but black cultural history.

Students heard about singer Nat King Cole and jazz artist Miles Davis.

Shelby said he hopes all students walk away with a better understanding of not only the history of struggles, but also the contributons to art and culture by African Americans.

He stressed the importance of embracing black history, taking it seriously and seeing how we are all interconnected. 

Students seem to grasp those messages and walk away with a deeper understanding.

"I'm a quarter African-American and I like to learn about my own culture," said 10-year-old Cullen Matthew.

"It's important they all understand what everybody went through and how they can improve everything," said classmate Max Wolff.

Shelby said he'd like to see black history absorbed into the general U.S. History curriculum, rather than just have a separate month for it.

"We all need to know what other races went through. All the hardships. Because lots of people went through it," said 11-year-old Joshua Young.