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There's a movement to get more schools to teach Black history and it's being led by teens

August 25, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Before a fateful trip to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, Alana Mitchell said she didn't feel like she was Black enough to own African American history as her own.

So Alana and her classmates made a demand to their school board -- require African American studies courses at every Denver public school, and teach Black history in every grade.

In the thick of a nationwide reckoning with racism and a pandemic that's disproportionately killed Black Americans, students and faculty in local communities across the nation are demanding better Black history programs in schools.

But only a few states require public schools to teach Black history, including Florida, Illinois and, since 2002, New Jersey.

Under New Jersey's "Amistad" law, named for the rebellion of enslaved Africans who rose up against their captors on a ship bound for the New World, all public schools in the state are required to teach Black history.

The students in the African American Culture Club at New Jersey's Cherry Hill High School East want more than just a week of programming during Black History Month.

"It's the same thing over and over," said Machayla Randall, rising senior at Cherry Hill East, of the Black History Month curriculum she is taught every year.

Educators who support bringing Black history into schools say visibility is critical for young Black students who haven't seen themselves in subjects before -- like Alana and her Denver classmates.

Some members of that group, plus a few more students who weren't on the trip, decided they wanted to see Black history taught in school so younger students wouldn't have to travel across the country for the same experience.

Now, the course on Black history isn't only offered to only high schoolers -- middle schoolers at the school are learning about the Middle Passage and the horrors of the Transatlantic slave trade, the students said.

The group of Denver students had already successfully pleaded their case to their school board when George Floyd was killed and Black Lives Matter protests revived across the US.

It's important for schools and teachers to engage their students in discussions on the last few months of protests and violence against Black people, Hagopian said -- young people are already having conversations about these complex ideas online and with each other.

The Denver students said they've been fortunate that their school has heard their concerns and found solutions when students in other states have been ignored by administrators or shouted down by community members who believe an expanded Black history program is unnecessary.

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