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Just How Little U.S. Students Learn About African American History — And Five Steps to Start to Change That

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tags: education, African American history, teaching history



The nationwide racial and social justice demonstrations led by Black Lives Matter in reaction to the May 25 police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, have led to calls for overhauls in policing, criminal justice and, among other things, school curriculums.

Students have demanded — at protests and with petitions — that schools teach a true history of the United States that includes the racial injustice that has been embedded in American institutions since the country’s founding. One petition on Change.org has more than 20,000 signatures.

This post, written by educators Leslie Fenwick and Chike Akua, speaks directly to this issue. They first explain how they took a group of Rhodes Scholars — a prestigious and highly selective international fellowship program — to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and discovered how little they knew about the subject matter. They write, for example:

During the tour, one of the Rhodes Scholars, a Chicagoan, looked quizzically at a giant wall quote from Ida B. Wells. “Who is that?” he asked. We explained that, among other things, Ida B. Wells documented lynchings and wrote extensively about the white terrorism that blacks experienced in the late 1800s in her book, “The Red Record.” He just shook his head. “My grandmother lived in the Ida B. Wells Homes — a housing project,” he said. “But I never knew who Ida B. Wells was.”

Then they discuss anti-racist curriculums and provide five ways that K-12 and higher education administrators, teachers and students can begin to educate themselves on this subject.

Leslie T. Fenwick is dean in residence at the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, dean emeritus of the Howard University School of Education and a member of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture Scholarly Advisory Committee, which was founded by noted historian John Hope Franklin to help set the museum’s intellectual agenda and exhibition content.

Chike Akua is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Clark Atlanta University who specializes in the sociocultural foundations of education. His dissertation research, “The Life of a Policy,” is the first to examine the formulation and implementation of Florida Statue 1003.42 (2)(h), which requires that students learn the history of African Americans. Akua is also a former Teacher of the Year for Newport News Public Schools in Virginia.Chike Akua is an assistant professor of educational leadership at Clark Atlanta University who specializes in the sociocultural foundations of education. His dissertation research, “The Life of a Policy,” is the first to examine the formulation and implementation of Florida Statue 1003.42 (2)(h), which requires that students learn the history of African Americans. Akua is also a former Teacher of the Year for Newport News Public Schools in Virginia.

Read entire article at Washington Post

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