Black history month
A selection of stories from Black History Month February 2021.
North Carolina students will almost certainly learn Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. in school.
Some teachers and students say North Carolina’s social studies standards are written in such a way that it’s easy for schools to ignore or give black national and national history a superficial treatment. As schools mark Black History Month, these educators and students say black history shouldn’t be relegated to February, if at all.
“I’m a black girl,” said Victoria Smith, 18, a senior at Enloe High School in Raleigh, in an interview. “I have to know my story. Because if they don’t teach me, who else will? Sadly, school systems have let us down when it comes to learning black history. “
Smith is founder and chairman of the Wake County Black Student Coalition. In addition to calling on counselors to replace police officers in schools, the coalition also wants the Wake County school system to make black history class a requirement for students.
The question of how to discuss the views of blacks and other minority groups has been a part of much of the recent debate on newly adopted state social studies standards.
Supporters of the new standards want to do more to ensure that the perspectives of historically marginalized groups are discussed in social studies classes. But critics say the new standards will create divisions and promote an overly negative view of the United States.
The State Department of Education continues to work on materials to help teach the new standards.
Teachers and school districts can vary widely
In the meantime, teachers will continue to use the existing social studies standards which set the framework for what is to be taught. But heads of state say current and new standards are not meant to be a curriculum. How to teach them is up to each school district.
Unlike many other subjects, there are no state exams for social studies courses. Students learn North Carolina history specifically in Grade 8, but also as part of other social studies courses, including American history and civics.
But the standards are so broad that it’s up to each teacher to decide how much – or how little – of black history they want to share, according to Rodney D. Pierce, a grade 8 social science student at county public schools. by Nash. Pierce helped draft some of the state’s new, more inclusive social studies standards.
“It depends on your teacher,” Pierce said in an interview. “Of course your teachers will be talking about black history during Black History Month. What are they going to do the other months of the year?
What teachers share with social science students will depend on their individual perspectives on history, according to Katrina Smith, a grade 5 social science teacher at Nash County Public Schools.
“The way I teach something is probably going to be different from the way another teacher teaches it at another school,” Smith said in an interview. “We have different interests.
Skip the Wilmington Massacre
State Grade 8 and American History 2 Standards list the Wilmington Massacre of 1898 as an example that teachers can discuss.
In 1898, white supremacists helped violently overthrow the elected multiracial government of Wilmington. They were aided by propaganda from News & Observer editor Josephus Daniels.
But this pivotal event in the history of North Carolina and the nation does not need to be discussed.
“Most high school teachers in North Carolina have either a non-existent or a weak understanding of it,” John deVille, professor of social studies at Franklin High School in Macon County, said in an interview.
Some teachers, said deVille, are also concerned that parents are complaining that the coup is being taught. “There is also a hesitation as to whether the phone will ring?” “
Reagan Razon, 17, a student at Enloe High School in Raleigh, is among students who say the coup was never mentioned in their social studies classes, even though they did discuss other events in the 1890s. Razon said she learned of the coup during last year’s nationwide protests against the police murder of George Floyd and other blacks.
“It’s ignored,” said Razon, an executive with the Wake County Black Student Coalition, in an interview. “It’s so weird for me. You can choose what to talk about the same year.
History of whitewashed blacks?
Some black students say that what they learn about black history in social science is a whitewashed and simplistic version.
Students are not learning how slaves were fully educated individuals with very rich cultures and languages, according to Jordyn Shumpert, 17, a senior at Enloe High and a member of the Wake County Black Student Coalition.
“We’re just taught slaves like they’re cardboard cutouts to be pitied and then like that, that’s it,” Shumpert said in an interview. “We were taught that the slaves were in 2D.”
Chalina Morgan-Lopez, 17, a student at Sanderson High School in Raleigh and a member of the Wake County Black Student Coalition, said much of what she learned about black history came from her parents and not from school.
“When it comes to learning black history in the Wake County public school system, we only learn Rosa Parks and MLK and they only talk about black history, I think during the Black History Month, ”Morgan-Lopez said in an interview. .
It was only because of the summer protests, Victoria Smith said, that she learned of black people being lynched in Moore Square in Raleigh.
KaLa Keaton, 17, a final year student at Middle Creek High School in Cary, said what she learned mainly about black history in social studies was about slavery, the Civil War and the civil rights. But Keaton said that even when discussing Martin Luther King Jr., his teachers acted as if the only speech he ever gave was his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech.
Keaton said she didn’t start learning things like the Wilmington Massacre, the state eugenics movement and lynchings until she took an African-American literature class and later an optional course “Hard history and civic engagement” in high school. This included work on a project to bring attention to the lynching of George Taylor in 1918 near Rolesville.
Keaton is one of a group of students who last summer urged the State Board of Education to make social studies standards more explicit on the coverage of different groups. She said it would benefit all students, not just people of color.
“Being a black student in a predominantly white school, I had the experience of racist jokes,” Keaton said in an interview. “But I think when you really delve into what people of color, and especially black Americans, have had to go through… it will challenge a lot of perspectives and beliefs that come from here. You don’t know what you don’t know.
Examples of black NC history
Social studies teachers – deVille, Pierce and Smith – say there is so much black history in North Carolina that their fellow educators can draw to help make the lessons more interesting for students.
For example, Pierce asked his students to consult the files of the local office of the Freedmen’s Bureau which was set up in Rocky Mount to help black people during the reconstruction.
Smith talks with his students about Sarah Keys Evans, the North Carolina woman whose refusal to relinquish her seat in 1952 led to a ban on segregation of black passengers on buses crossing state lines.
deVille helps his students confront the grim reality of racism with examples such as how a prominent Franklin doctor hung the skeleton of a lynched black man in his office until the 1950s.
Other examples include:
▪ Julius Chambers, the lawyer in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg who helped expand inclusive education locally and across the country.
▪ Dorothy Counts, who entered Harding High School in Charlotte in 1957.
▪ Robert F. Williams, a Union County NAACP leader, whose writings helped inspire the Black Panther Party.
▪ The formation of the Black Panther Party chapters in Raleigh and Winston-Salem.
Smith, the teacher, said it’s especially important to make the material relevant now that the majority of students are people of color. She hopes the newly adopted standards will do a better job than what is in place now.
“Are you wondering why kids aren’t interested in learning history?” Smith said. “How would I be interested in something that doesn’t apply to me?” “
According to Smith, the high school student, students need to learn more than just about the western history of white Europe.
“We need to incorporate not only Rosa Parks, not just MLK, but the real black history that is being seen,” Smith said. “There are so many dark figures that go unheard and need to be taught. It is wrong for people to say that it is okay to skip this.
“Because that’s not the case. “
This story was originally published February 11, 2021 5:23 pm.