The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Striking down African-American history classes is Black erasure

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education recently voted against mandatory African-American history courses in public schools. 

As an alternative, the board voted to strengthen the Infusion Project which is already in place and uses multicultural resources in lessons but does not have a specific African-American history class. 

We believe not requiring African-American history classes is a mistake. 

“This will not be easy, much like being Black in Winston-Salem or trying to teach under Eurocentric curriculum isn’t easy,” said Miranda Jones of Local Organizing Committee. 

In North Carolina public schools, we learn about the American Revolution and the World Wars, but we struggle to confront our state’s appalling history with slavery, segregation and suppression. 

“When we look at what’s going on with Black children — lack of engagement and the achievement gap — nothing should be optional,” Jones said. “We should do everything that we can to save this group of children.”

This year, UNC rolled out the Reckoning: Race, Memory and Reimagining the Public University initiative. The Reckoning initiative is designed to challenge and support students as they learn about race, reconciliation and memory. Programs like this initiative are a model that the Forsyth County Board of Education should follow. Allowing for complex, inclusive courses to be taught at a young age will hopefully create critical thinkers who can address important issues.  

History lessons in our schools mostly tell the same narrative that racism used to be a thing, then Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech, and now it isn’t. Obviously, this is not the case and this needs to be better addressed in our state's curriculum. 

It’s important for all students, regardless of their race, to acknowledge that race and racism played a role in shaping our country. Requiring an African-American history class would affirm the fact that Black students' ancestors had just as much of a role in shaping our country as those of their white counterparts. 

Throughout the history of this nation and this state, the erasure of Black lives, stories and histories has persisted. This decision is part of that greater narrative of erasure, and the Board should consider how their action was complicit in suppressing African-American experiences. By actively limiting how students of color learn about their history, the Board is continuing the implicit narrative that white history is more important than any other.

As many of us made our way through the public education system in North Carolina, lessons were whitewashed and didn’t give students an accurate picture of what it means to be an American. How can we expect students to become well-informed citizens if we can’t confront our own past and acknowledge the contributions of more than a couple of Black leaders? (Spoiler: there are a lot more than a couple of Black leaders that we should be required to learn about.) 

Aside from addressing institutionalized flaws in the educational system, these classes would have been a way for young Black kids to see people who look like them doing incredible things. If you can recognize yourself in something, you’re more likely to pay attention. 

In a world that so often disparages young Black kids, we should be doing everything we can to remind them of their worth. These classes would have been one way to do that.

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.