In the Face of Struggle, Progress Abounds

Education is a major aspect of the Black experience. The desire to learn is in our DNA. Policymakers and educators alike will point to the data points concerning Black student test scores and lament that Black People don’t care about education. I’ve heard with my own ears from “educators,” including some colleagues.

They’ll say or have said that Black children don’t want to learn and that Black parents don’t care to make them. Nothing could be said further from the truth. The truth is that public (and private) schools historically are white institutional spaces with no inherent agenda where Black people are at the center. Thus, teacher pedagogy and administrative policies, overall, fail to account for the history, experiences, and culture of Black people and how these impact their education.

Nevertheless, Black people have always pushed beyond the barriers meant to subordinate them. It’s because Black people have always known education equates to power. Learning to read and write meant liberation to the enslaved. According to Dr. Dubois:

“… the Black folk… connected knowledge with power… believed that education was the stepping stone to wealth and respect and that wealth, without education, was crippled.”

Thus, as Dubois shared, public education in the South, paid for by the government, came from the minds of Black people. Once emancipated, education was a chief goal.

The white power structure knew of the power of education as well; they knew that an educated mind couldn’t be controlled or exploited, which explains their goal of keeping both enslaved African Americans and poor whites uneducated.

This history laid out by Dr. Dubois in his epochal work Black Reconstruction explains even more. It explains why there’s a war on Black studies and Black history; it’s to keep Black people, as well as the poor and working classes, ignorant so that they can be controlled and exploited.

But because the desire to learn is in our DNA, Black people continue to resist and with the support of actual leaders in government.

While states with conservatives “leading” as governors and state legislators are busy banning books, discontinuing Black history courses, and banning Critical Race Theory, other states are teaching Black history.

In New Jersey, for example, Governor Phil Murphy expanded the AP African American Studies course to more school districts during the pilot phase of the College Board’s rollout. Numerous school districts throughout the state offer a Black history course with the support of the state’s Amistad Commission, which provides a curriculum guide for all districts throughout the state to use and offers a summer institute for teachers.

One school district in particular, the Cherry Hill School District, became the first in the state to mandate a Black history course as a graduation requirement.

Next door in Pennsylvania, the Philadelphia School District was the first district in the country to set in place a similar mandate. In addition, under the current leadership of Social Studies Curriculum Director Ismael Jimenez, teachers receive training from various leaders in studying Black history, titled the African Studies Lecture and Workshop Series. Some notable scholar activists include Fred Hampton Jr. and Dr. Gerald Horne.

But even without the support of government leaders, Black folks are resisting, specifically in Confederate… I mean conservative states.

In Alabama, students walked out of school when told to omit certain items from their Black History Month celebration. In Texas, Black mothers have fought the state government to challenge book bans. An unnamed teacher has filled her bookshelf with all books banned by conservatives in the state. In Florida, Black churches offer Black history courses to students in response to the various decisions of the DeSantis Administration.

Despite Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s objections, Arkansas educators continue teaching the AP African American Studies course. In Oklahoma, a group of Black teachers opened Black History Saturdays in an unused school building in Tulsa, where students learn archeology to understand the search for unmarked graves containing remains from the Tulsa massacre.

Black people are aware of the importance of learning our history. Many white people also know the importance of learning Black history. Black history, which is American history, has shown that activism and determination of Black people have pushed the United States to be, as Dr. Martin Luther King said, what the U.S. said that it was on paper.

I suspect that challenges to Black history won’t stop. There’s always been a war against Black studies and Black history. However, Black folk have never strayed from the front lines. Since the desire to learn is in our DNA, we will continue fighting this fight— part of the greater Black freedom struggle.

Frederick Douglass said that where there is no struggle, there is no progress. Therefore, we must take heart that where struggles abound, progress abounds much more.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Up Next