Home Teaching Black History Month Is Over. Teaching Black History Shouldn’t Be (Opinion)

Black History Month Is Over. Teaching Black History Shouldn’t Be (Opinion)

by Staff

For the third year in a row, Education Week Opinion teamed up with LaGarrett J. King, an associate professor of social studies education at the University at Buffalo and the founding director of the university’s Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education, to observe and interrogate Black History Month. As the guest editor of this project, King is quick to urge readers not to relegate Black history instruction to February alone. The month should instead be a celebration and showcase of the Black history programming that is infused in the curriculum year-round.

Dive into the package for practical instructional materials, emotional reflections on personal journeys toward Black history literacy, and overarching guidance on building a more expansive and accurate history program:

In a video series accompanying the project, King interviews three educators to understand the personal histories that feed their love for Black history:

Just as teaching Black history doesn’t end with February, it doesn’t end with any arbitrary point in the past, either. We are all still making history today, as policymakers debate how (or even if) to address in the classroom our country’s ugly legacy of racial oppression, teachers struggle to teach through ongoing incidents of police violence against the Black community, and students discover the power of their own voices for social change.

In her essay, “America Must Confront the Black History It Teaches,” author and education professor Bettina Love decries the hypocrisy of celebrating Black history without confronting the persistence of racial injustice in American education today.

The Advanced Placement African American Studies course has been on the minds of many educators across the country as a result of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration’s rejection of the pilot course and the College Board’s changes to the final curriculum released shortly after. To bring you up to speed, Edweek Staff Writer Ileana Najarro wrote an in-depth explanation of the political backlash to the new AP course: How AP African American Studies Came Under Attack: A Timeline. And Florida’s far from the only state with laws on the books to curtail how teachers can approach America’s troubled racial history, as this map tracking so-called anti-CRT legislation demonstrates.

Over on the Opinion side, two seasoned educators opened up about the intellectual and emotional toll of such restrictions. University administrator Monika Williams Shealey, herself a product of the Florida education system, calls on her peers to defy DeSantis’ efforts to make the state the “place where woke goes to die,” as he promised in his inaugural address in January.

Halfway across the country, former Texas Teacher of the Year Monica Washington has also been watching this curricular fight closely. Frustrated by the voices left out of the American literary canon during years spent teaching AP American Literature, Washington lays out her hopes for how the new course could offer students greater representation and her disappointment over the political backlash.

Whatever the political landscape in their state, teachers don’t need to wait for high school-level AP courses to help students make sense of America’s ongoing racial inequalities—or the role they can play in upending those inequalities .

“What do you want to change in the world?” asks 2023 Tennessee Teacher of the Year Melissa Collins of her 2nd grade class during a lesson that followed the death of Tyre Nichols at the hands of police officers in her home city of Memphis. Watch the video for students’ thoughtful and inspiring responses: ‘I Wished I Could Help Tyre’: Memphis 2nd Graders Use Art, Expression to Foster Change.

And it’s not just students who can find inspiration for social change in their studies. In “What I Learned About America’s Enslavement of People Shaped My District’s DEI Efforts,” Superintendent Charles V. Khoury opens up about the profound effect that a trip to two museums in Montgomery, Ala., had on his leadership.

Finally, don’t forget to check out the previous years’ Opinion collections spotlighting Black history instruction, which continue to offer relevant resources: What Black History Month Should Mean and How to Get Black History Right.

Explore the Collection

We are not a historically mature society until we acknowledge that everyone’s history matters. In this special collection, a slate of Black history researchers and educators help lead us down that road to historical maturity and LaGarrett J. King offers practical resources for improving Black history instruction.

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