Black History Month for the win
When the College Board announced the latest version of their landmark Advanced Placement African American Studies course on the first day of Black History Month, they may have thought they would be celebrated. Instead, they were accused of cowardice. A few weeks earlier, Florida’s department of education had loudly dropped out of offering the course to its high school students, citing topics they called “indoctrination.” The revised course de-emphasized those very topics—appearing to bow to political pressure.
Black History Month is an apt time to call out these censorship efforts. The last few years have seen rampant government bans of books like The 1619 Project, and attempts to punish teachers for material that makes white students feel bad. As historian Carter Woodson said, “When you determine what a man shall think, you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do.” (He should know; he created Black History Month.)
Fortunately, elected officials can’t determine what we think. Your teachers may not be allowed to teach from Nikole Hannah-Jones’ The 1619 Project, and you may not even be able to get the book from your public library. But Hulu has released a powerful documentary series expanding on it. This follows an incredible podcast inspired by it, which I listened to in 2020 after watching a police officer murder George Floyd. If you’re short on time, the original Pulitzer-Prize winning magazine series is still there at the New York Times website.
All Americans should study Black history. It is American history. I remember when I took US History at 15 and I was the only Black kid in the class. When we got to slavery, I felt my classmates looking at me with concern, as though this was a shameful heritage. I didn’t feel that way. My ancestors didn’t do a bad thing—they were incredibly strong people. In spite of being captured, journeying in the hold, enduring beatings, family separation, and incarceration, we are still here. We are enriching culture and society. I am proud of the strength and resilience of my ancestors.
Plus, Black history is more than slavery and oppression. There were African empires before our ancestors were captured and brought here, and even within the times of oppression there have been so many inspiring lessons of families thriving and innovators contributing. There are many joyful moments in Black history and Black lives.
Even though some people in the Sunshine State are trying to keep this information away from us, I hope you will enlighten yourself this February. And once you’re in the habit, keep it going all year long. Despite the best efforts of Ron DeSantis, there are still far more ways to study our nation’s history than anyone can absorb in one month!