Pop Culture Classroom’s Colorful Story Celebrates Black History Month


If you’ve ever enjoyed a home game console – especially if you’re part of the seminal generation who grew up on the Atari 2600 in all its eight-bit glory – you owe inventor Jerry Lawson a gesture of gratitude. What many gamers don’t know is that Jerry Lawson was a black man, one of the few working as an engineer in the tech industry in the 1970s. Pop Culture Classroom’s latest issue colorful story The comic book series, “Jerry Lawson and the Channel F,” tells his important story, which has had an indelible impact on gaming and black history.

Now in its 66th issue, colorful story has gone through as many permutations as Pop Culture Classroom itself. It started as a state-specific history comic a few years ago. “It was originally a two-page comic strip focusing on people and places in Colorado, ranging from Japanese internment camps to the construction of Red Rocks to the stories of various historical figures,” says Matt. Slayter, head of the CCP’s education program and author of the latest issue. colorful story stayed that way for about 40 issues until the decision was made to cover all of American history.

Click to enlarge

Matt Slayter, CCP education program manager.

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“Story-based comics have a lot more appeal than Colorado alone,” says Slayter. “Our educational guides for graphic novels are available to educators across the country; the same goes for our teaching units. We decided that colorful story must have the same range. At the same time, we have expanded our scope, we have also increased to four pages. »

So what brought the feature film about Jerry Lawson? “As a gamer as I am,” says Slayter, “I had never heard of Jerry Lawson until a Netflix documentary called High score came out in 2020. It did a great job of highlighting many lesser-known voices in video game history, Jerry being one of them. It felt natural for us to cover Black History Month. »

Self-taught computer and electronics expert Jerry Lawson invented the cartridge-based video game system, which not only revolutionized the burgeoning home video game industry, but also paved the way for today’s sophisticated games and to a lasting community of fans. Despite Lawson’s historic impact on technology and culture, the accomplishments of this black computer engineer were largely unrecognized until recent years.

Click to enlarge One of the Jerry Lawson and Channel F. panels - POP CULTURE CLASSROOM

One of the panels of Jerry Lawson and the F Channel.

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The Slayter storyline is joined by the fantastic art of Marcus Kwame Anderson (black panther party), with art management and lettering from Denver’s own comic book creator and Regis professor, R. Alan Brooks (Burning metronome, garden of anguish, mall in mourning).

Jerry Lawson and the F Channellike all numbers colorful story, includes a teacher’s guide that includes alignment to grade-specific standards, project ideas, and discussion questions so teachers who take advantage of the free download don’t have to do the heavy lifting to incorporate the material to their current lesson plans. “A lot of teachers crave that stuff,” says Slayter. “They want to be able to use comics and games in their classrooms as constructive teaching tools, and we want to provide that to them.”

Diversity is as much a part of this mission as educational content. The March issue will focus on César Chávez acknowledging his vacation, while the July issue will explain how to become a US citizen. For Pride Month, Slayter “hopes to talk about Two-Spirit people and how that integrates with the LGBTQ+ community and Indigenous issues.” CCP does its best to stay relevant and timely, Slayter says, while adhering closely to academic standards. “When someone looks at our entire catalog,” he adds, “they should see stories from diverse communities and diverse people, told by diverse writers and artists.”

One last note: colorful story, like all PCC educational resources, are made available free of charge. It’s a
organizational mission statements that teachers should not have to pay out of pocket for educational tools. But Slayter is quick to add that each issue costs around $1,500 to produce. PCC therefore always accepts donations to help it produce this type of work in addition to its Denver-based, year-round outreach. If you’re a dedicated gamer, comic book lover, or pop culture fan, donating is a great way to give back.

For more information on Colorful history, see the Pop culture class website.


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