What About the Rest of Us

Earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis blocked the College Board from piloting its AP African American Studies (APAAS) course in Florida under the state’s “Stop WOKE” Act. According to a letter obtained by National ReviewFlorida’s Department of Education’s Office of Articulation said the curriculum “is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.”

The original curriculum contained information on the topics of intersectionality, Black queer studies, Black feminist thought, and Black Lives Matter. Gov. DeSantis attack on the course caused the College Board to remove those topics from the course. Whether or not that will satisfy conservative Republicans like Gov. DeSantis is anybody’s guess.

Left to reckon with the College Board’s changes are the teachers and students of the course around the country. But a forgotten constituency are the majority of teachers and students who are not taking the APAAS course yet subject the various legislation passed around the country stopping the teaching of Black history.

For teachers around the country, watching what’s happening in Florida and throughout state legislatures in red states, who may be concerned with the state of history education—teachers who firmly believe in teaching Black history and an unfiltered history of the United States—what recourse is there to support that work?

Black History Month is a time, not only to teach the Black freedom struggle, but to celebrate the year long instruction of it. This was the goal of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founder of Negro History Week which became Black History Month. It is in that spirit that Black history ought to be taught in the context of United States history, ALL YEAR LONG, whether an advanced placement course or a standard U.S. history course.

Again… BLACK HISTORY IS TO BE TAUGHT ALL YEAR AND WITHIN A STANDARD U.S. HISTORY COURSE. Keep this in mind when we start the new school year.

Some teachers may not know how to do that. I get it. With that said, here are some key topics to include within U.S. history courses; consider the following 3 must have topic recommendations for U.S. History I and 3 must have topic recommendations for U.S. History II:

  1. U.S. I – (White) Settler Colonialism
    1. DESCRIPTION: Setter colonialism is a structure and/or policy that terminates Indigenous peoples to make land available to settlers. White settler colonialism is just that where Europeans were the ones terminating Indigenous peoples throughout the Americas, by the methods of assimilation and/or extermination, to make land available for themselves.
    Integration in the U.S. I Classroom Curriculum: Use the language (“settler colonialism”) where it applies… Manifest Destiny within the continental U.S. as well as with Western settlement throughout Central and South America. Reaffirm understand by defining when using the language to describe it happening.
  2. Books Recommendation for YOUR growth:
    1. Not a Nation of Immigrants by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
    1. A Black and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
  3. U.S. I – Racial Capitalism
    1. DESCRIPTION: Racial Capitalism is the extraction of economic and social value from people of color, specifically Black people, by way of their exploitation. According to political scientist Cedric Robinson, capitalism and racism, in other words, did not break from the old order but rather evolved from it to produce a modern world system of “racial capitalism” dependent on enslavement, violence, imperialism, and genocide.
    1. Integration in the U.S. I Classroom Curriculum: Utilize the ways violence (enslavement, genocide, imperialism, and colonization) were used to extract value (economic and otherwise) via exploitation from Africans and Indigenous persons e.g. attributing value to stolen lands to either be sold or gifted and the use of African peoples as collateral to expand opportunities of wealth.
    1. Book Recommendation for YOUR growth:
      1. Black Marxism: The Making of the Black Radical Tradition by Cedric Robinson
      1. A Black Woman’s History of the United States by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross
  4. U.S. I – Black Resistance
    1. DESCRIPTION: Black resistance is what makes up the concept of the Black radical tradition. This is overarching motif of resistance throughout the Black experience throughout the African Diaspora (and also on the African continent). This tradition encompassed all forms of resistance, as expressed by historian Herbert Aptheker. These include sabotage, running away and revolts and rebellion.
    1. Integration in the U.S. I Classroom Curriculum: Discuss everyday examples of how African peoples resisted enslavement and their economic exploitation. Speak about instances of sabotage, strikes and the various insurrection plots and events that heavily contributed to Black people securing their freedom—that abolitionism itself is not what drove the U.S. to civil war; but it was also Black resistance.
    1. Book Recommendation for YOUR growth:
      1. Resistance Stories from Black History for Kids by Rann Miller
      1. Fear of a Black Republic by Leslie Alexander
  5. U.S. II – Black Reconstruction
    1. DESCRIPTION: Reconstruction is the period where the United States sought to reintegrate the Confederate states back into the Union and “welcome” Black people into the union for the first time. The history often paints Black people as having made the country wayward. Black reconstruction, as told by W.E.B. DuBois is the reframing of the era as one where those racist ideas are deconstructed and the contributions of Black people to make the United States a more perfect union are told.
    1. Integration in the U.S. II Classroom Curriculum: Explain the role Black people played politically throughout the south in creating laws to support the integration of Black people and reach a constitutional ideal while displaying how various political actors sought to undermine the efforts of reconstruction.
    1. Book Recommendation for YOUR growth:
      1. Black Reconstruction in America, 1860-1880 by W.E.B. DuBois
      1. Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Business by Eric Foner
  6. U.S. II – Pan-Africanism
    1. DESCRIPTION: Pan-Africanism is a movement asserting that African and African descended peoples around the world (diasporic and indigenous) should be unified by the common political and cultural interests, including ending racism and white supremacy. This movement is rooted in the fight against colonization and enslavement and builds upon the Black radical tradition of resistance.
    1. Integration in the U.S. II Classroom Curriculum: Display how solidarity amongst Civil Rights Movement activists and liberation movement activists throughout Africa and the Diaspora forged partners to display the evils of racial oppression and economic exploitation to achieve gains on behalf of African people.
    1. Book Recommendation for YOUR growth:
      1. A History of Pan-African Revolt by C.L.R. James
      1. How Europe Underdeveloped African by Walter Rodney
  7. U.S. II – The Equal Protection Clause and the Intent Standard
    1. DESCRIPTION: The equal protection clause of the 14th amendment ensures that all citizens are assure equal protection of the laws. However, systemic racism has driven folks to the courts to enforce that clause. Yet in 1976, the Supreme Court in Washington v. Davis instituted the “intent standard” which requires plaintiffs to prove a perpetrator’s discriminatory “intent” in order to prove an anti-discrimination claim.  But because contemporary discrimination is frequently structural in nature, unconscious, and/or hidden behind pretexts the showing of “intent” becomes a near impossible burden for plaintiffs.
    1. Integration in the U.S. II Classroom Curriculum: Discuss court cases where the intent standard is at the heart of the case, allowing students to debate and decide if the court ruled correctly or not—the impact of rulings within society versus the impact of their overruling. Students can use their knowledge of history to support the determination they’ve made.
    1. Book Recommendation for YOUR Growth:
      1. White By Law: The Legal Construction of Race by Ian Haney Lopez
      1. On Intersectionality by Kimberly Crenshaw
Sharif El-Mekki
Sharif El-Mekki
Sharif El-Mekki is the principal of Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter school in Philadelphia that serves 750 students in grades 7-12. From 2013-2015, he was one of three principal ambassador fellows working on issues of education policy and practice with U.S. Department of Education under Secretary Arne Duncan.


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