Victory in Austin: African American Studies Course Passes
Recently a group of educators and historians gathered together to develop an African American Studies course for high school students across the entire State of Texas. This involved hours of curriculum development from the experts in the area of black history from before slavery, during slavery, and after chattel slavery. I was fortunate enough to help write the curriculum and represent San Antonio in Austin, Texas before the State Board of Education (SBOE), the state governing body responsible for policies of what is taught in social studies. School districts must provide instruction in all essential knowledge and skills as identified in what we proposed. The proposal we submitted was passed and will go to a final hearing in April. What a VICTORY! We are almost there!
According to our course description, “The goal of this course is to broaden the knowledge and understanding of students interested in learning about history, citizenship, culture, economics, science, technology, geography, and the political realities of African Americans.” Those speaking in support of the course before the SBOE at the hearing included Mario Marcel Salas and Brandon Johnson of San Antonio). From other Texas cities came Jamila Thomas, Stephanie Boyce, Eliza Epstein, Deyandira Arellano, Nalleli Hidalgo, Philemon Brown, and Shalon Bond from Dallas ISD. Supporters included activists, students, and educators from Dallas, Houston, Austin, and other areas of the state. Gary Bledsoe of the State NAACP also supported the cause and helped to develop the curriculum.
Sources that will be used include historical documents, speeches, Supreme Court cases, revolutionary ideology, poetry, music, art, autobiographies, and sources from museums, libraries, and other places that house the history of Blacks in America. The contributions of African history will be included as there has been a purposeful strategy over the years to divorce Africa from the historical narratives of Blacks in America. The course will teach the racist rationalizations for slavery (scientific racism), the horrors of slavery and how the 3/5th Compromise and the Fugitive Slave Act led to the growth of human bondage. Included are the important contributions of David Walker, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglas, Richard Allen (AME), the American Anti-Slavery Society, and many others including W.E. B. Dubois, the NAACP, Freedmen’s Towns, the Exodusters, and Ida B. Wells.
All of history must include the good, the bad, and the ugly, and hence genocide and massacres against blacks will be taught including the Colfax Massacre, lynching, race riots, and those responsible for such acts. Learning objectives will include the civil and human rights struggles of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and many others. The Civil Rights Movement will be taught with an emphasis on how the extent that this movement transformed America. Modern leaders including Muhammad Ali, Barbara Jordan, Barack Obama, and others will be analyzed. The contributions to science by Blacks will be taught and include Henrietta Lacks, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Katherine Johnson, George Washington Carver, and many others.
Examination of the role of Blacks in the military will be taught from colonial times, the Civil War, WWI, WWII, in their efforts to end segregation. Students will be taught about group resistance to slavery and the plantation system, Reconstruction and the death of Reconstruction, the sabotage of the Civil War Amendments by pro-slavery men, Jim Crow Law, and others issues of oppression that affected the lives of blacks will also be included. The transatlantic slave trade will be taught with an explanation of how enslaved people were transported to produce goods shipped across the globe. Indeed, this is a major historical victory in the State of Texas to finally educate our children about their past and develop ideas for the future.