The struggle of Black educators and historians to secure Black history’s place and relevance in K-12 curricula nationwide is not a race but a marathon. Despite numerous states requiring Black history instruction, more states do not mandate such a requirement. Additionally, requiring that Black history is taught is no guarantee that all teachers are competent enough in the subject matter to teach it critically and with care.
Thus, in the words of recently departed griot Nipsey Hussle, the marathon continues.
Enter the College Board, which “took” the baton on the matter of teaching Black history through the creation of its AP African American Studies course (APAAS), announced last year. Excitement over the course reached a halt in February when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis blocked the College Board from piloting the course in Florida, using the state’s “Stop WOKE Act.”
In response, the College Board revised its curriculum, eliminating the requirement that students learn about critical race theory and other modern tenets of Black history, including the works of seminal Black scholars and the entire Black Lives Matter movement that forced a national reckoning with race and equity in the U.S.
The change, of course, was to the dismay of many of the scholars who worked on the curriculum, including University of Kansas history professor Nishani Frazier and University of Connecticut sociology professor David Embrick. Both complained internally that the College Board was forcing changes to the AP African American Studies course that were not requested by professors, teachers, or students, according to the Wall Street Journal.
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In response, the College Board announced that it would once again revise its APAAS course after admitting to watering down the course requirements in response to GOP outrage over the material covered.
What this fiasco involving the College Board navigating the politics of teaching Black history does is provide the public with an insider’s view of some of what Black educators have encountered in fighting for the teaching of Black history in schools—racist backlash.
What’s happening isn’t new.
For example, Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s attempts at formalizing Black history programs at the K-12 level met racist backlash from his philanthropic benefactors. His answer was to create the Association for the Study of African American Life and History to provide resources for Black teachers and Black students in spaces where those resources didn’t exist.
What’s happening with the College Board is more than simply an unfortunate misunderstanding amongst Black educators and policymakers. What’s being played out is a familiar refrain. The unfortunate truth is that for all the “progress we’ve achieved” as a country, the teaching of Black history comes at too expensive a price for whites in positions of power and influence to pay.
Conservatives refuse to pay as liberals seek a discount.
It’s due to the fear of white parents storming school board meetings, fear of reduced profits, fear of losing one’s job, fear of losing political power, prestige, and/or influence. Meanwhile, Black folks fear the erasure of our history from public access. Therefore, we’ve historically paid full price to ensure its existing, losing livelihoods, lives and limbs… with little to no discussion about reparations.
Yet Black educators continue in this struggle.
Black history has shown that the liberation work of Black people continues to serve as the catalyst for forming a more perfect union. The goal of our effort isn’t to turn the tables on white people within a systemically racist society. Rather, our goal is to help students navigate the challenges of our day with history serving as the foundation to do so, so that they might one day eradicate systemic racism altogether.
… and with that, the marathon continues.
Photo: Black Student Leadership Conference,
College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, Illinois, February 2015 (COD Newsroom)
READ MORE ARTICLES BY RANN MILLER
Rann Miller is an educator and freelance writer based in New Jersey. His Urban Education Mixtape blog supports urban educators and parents of children attending urban schools. He is the author of “Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids” (Bloom Books for Young Readers) released on March 7: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Target. Follow him on Twitter @RealRannMiller.