They were babies when men and women their parents' ages faced high-powered fire hoses, vicious dogs and foul epithets used to discourages them from seeking civil rights for black Americans.

More than a decade later, these children are learning during Black History Month what the struggles of the 1960s meant and how, through the years, other black people fought for the rights of self-determination and educational opportunities that many black youths today take for granted.

Paul George, 12, a sixth grader at Garnet C. Wilkinson Elementary School at Poneroy Road and Erie Street SE. said "the children today need to know about blacks and the struggles in the 1960s.

"Black people were tight (unified) in the '60s, stuck together, even when they (the local police) put the dogs on them." Paul said. His house keys dangled from a black shoestring tied around his neck. "I think some people think that the struggle is all over, but it's not. Look at the Allen Bakke (reverse discrimination) case or the case of the Wilmington 10 - the whites are out (of jail) but the blacks are still in prison."

"We need Black History Month because we need to know about the famous black people who had the strength of mind to fight for their rights and they should be recognized," said 11 year-old, sixth grader Yolanda Wood, student council presidet at the school.

Black History Month (the entire month of February) at the Wilkinson schoo has been a time of discovery and racial pride during which youngsters from prekindergarten to sixth grade were exposed to contributions by black Americans in a range of occupations and skills from music to politics and medicine.

Yolanda, Paul, Angela English and Andrew Stewart completed in a school sponsored black history essay contest. Recently, they talked to a reporter about their essays, what they have learned during the month and what that knowledge means to them.

"Black children need to know about their ancestors and their struggles. We shouldn't have a black history month, but black history all year, not just a measly 28 days a year," said Paul, who would like to be an inventor. He said his friends call him "the brain" because "I read so many books."

Paul's essay traced slave trading from the 1400s to the American civil war The essay ended with a discussion of the black struggle in the 1960s and with a warning that what has been accomplished so far, may be lost.

"The man of the '60s was fighting for his freedom." Paul's essay reads, "and they had leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and all the others. They stayed together no matter what. Like the Montgomery each other . . . (even) when the firehoses were turned on them, they stuck together. But the black man of the '70s was not this way, he was soft. Since he had won his revolution in the '60s, he relaxed and left the teaching to the teachers . . . if the black man doesn't get it together, he will be right back into slavery."

Andrew Stewart, 11, who wrote "Blacks of America," stressed "blacks' rocts are in Africa" His essay described the influence of the recent television specials, "Roots," and King."

Many of the phrases in Andrew's essay rang with the method of delivery of the black small town preacher, who, with one foot on the altar rail, a forearm on his knee and leaning toward an enraptured congregation, elicits "Amens," "Yes, Lords" and "Ain't it the truths."

"Now there was a black lady named Harriet Tubman," Andrew wrote in his essay. "When she was a little girl the master threw a rock at (her) and it hit her in the head and she was knocked out. Years later, she went with the Underground Railroad. She was good?"

Angela English, 12, her well-oiled black curls still glistening from a recent visit to a beauty parlor, composed a short but personal essay, "Black is Beautiful." A shy little girl with large clear eyes, she wrote, "I think black is beautiful because when my mother was living she worked so hard so I can get a good education. I really wish my mother could see this essay."

"My father also cares about me and he is very proud of me. I think most black people's parents care a lot about their children because when you do something bad, you are supposed to get a beating. The reason why our parents beat us is because they don't want you do it again and they care. And that's why I think black is beautiful."

Sixth grade teacher Elizabeth Monroe, one of the contest's faculty sponsors, said "the week-long prsentation of "Roots" stimulated the majority of students to take a closer look at what leaders have been doing. But to really get them to understand, it will take longer than a month. (Black history) should be an individual subject that is taught in the schools."

"Many children today feel that 'you owe me something, a pencil, the right to have a textbook or paper, and (what they have now) has no value to them," Monroe said. "Ten to 20 years ago, their parents had to work hard for (the right to an educaton). They should understand where they came from to really appreciate what gains they have now."

Yolanda Wood's essay, also called "Black is Beautiful," read: "At 11 years old black is definitely beautiful to me. This is because I'm loved by my beautiful black family. haven't experienced the evils of slavery or segregation.And I have the strength to pursure my goals in life. The color of my skin won't stop me from absorbing knowledge. The color of my skin won't stop me from contributing to this world. The color of my skin won't stop me from expressing my thoughts. And most of all the color of my skins will not let the racism in the world instill hatred in me."