Black History Month is a special time to reflect on the contributions and achievements of Black leaders, past and present, to inspire future contributions, innovation, and achievement. All students benefit from learning Black history. By teaching students the complete story of America’s history, they will have a deeper understanding of the society around them and be inspired to advocate for causes that align with their interests.
In schools, the teaching of Black history has been a source of contention across the nation as parents and special interest groups push districts seek to eliminate it being taught altogether. New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy recently expressed his commitment to keeping Black history alive in our schools. “New Jersey will proudly teach our kids that Black History is American History," he stated. Students deserve equity – and the curriculum we use for educating them should be balanced and inclusive. We are excited to see New Jersey public schools are standing up for what’s right – for all schools in the state to learn Black history and broaden standards on diversity-driven topics.
Governor Murphy’s plan for statewide expansion of this history in schools aims to build upon the transformative 2020 Amistad Law that includes lessons for every grade level about the contributions of Black leaders. The education system here in Newark has made meaningful progress in creating a curriculum centered on African American history with the goal of teaching children the significant role that Black Americans have played in building this nation. As part of the incentive, New Jersey leaders will be tasked with addressing the existing inequities among students of color who take A.P. classes in the state. New Jersey has great potential to address the lingering inequities in our schools and sends a message to the country that Black history is American history. We only hope other states will do what’s right and follow the Garden State’s lead.
A recent article by Education Week speaks to the benefits of incorporating Black history into early education curricula, stating that “Early elementary—grades K through 2—is a particularly fertile time for children to learn about and explore these stories, making elementary educators critical in raising students’ awareness and working toward racial justice.” Teachers play a crucial role in shaping how children learn to see the world around them – and equipping them with the right resources and tools to teach Black history will encourage enhanced consciousness, leadership, and ingenuity in young students. Representation is always important, and Black students should be able to see examples of trailblazers and achievers who look like them and motivate them to succeed – and contribute to ending racism and evoking our Constitution’s great promise of equality. Their counterparts will also learn the value of inclusion and sensitivity of the experiences of others.
During Black History Month, and beyond, it is vital to encourage equity in the classroom. We all play a role in ensuring students have a complete and accurate understanding of the past. Our country has a rich and diverse history, and it is a disservice to all learners to not teach them about the intricacies of this. Black history is a valuable way to help instill empathy and understanding in kids. We are excited about New Jersey’s commitment to include Black history in curriculum and look forward to continuing to immerse students in enriching lessons that ignite their curiosity and development.