Politicians and activists want mandatory Black history lessons

A bill is being introduced that would affect all grade levels.

Frederick Douglass thegrio.com
(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A group of New York politicians and activists are demanding that schools be required to teach Black history.

Sen. Jesse Hamilton (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson (D-Brooklyn) are working with Rev. Kevin McCall of the National Action Network to advocate for a bill that would make Black history studies mandatory across all grade levels for every student in the city.

The bill intends to update and amend the Amistad Commission, which was introduced back in 2005 and examines state curriculum covering the slave trade.

A climate of racism

This bill is especially important after New York City schools have recently come under fire for a string of racial incidents, including reports that a Bronx English teacher was prevented by her principal from teaching about abolitionist Frederick Douglass and the Harlem Renaissance during Black History Month. Another school saw its PTA board retracting a fundraiser announcement featuring people in blackface.

“In the climate we are in, we need this bill like never before,” McCall told the New York Daily News. 

“We must build an education system that embraces the inescapable truth that tomorrow’s America will be even more diverse, will call for even more understanding, and will require us to be better versed in the American stories of our African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino, and African diaspora brothers and sisters,” said Hamilton.

“The Black History bill will create change and confidence in our youth by providing role models outside of sports and entertainment. I commend Senator Hamilton and Assemblywoman Richardson,” said McCall.

Rally for Black History Month

On Wednesday, a rally in support of the push for mandatory Black history lessons will take place at the Dr. Betty Shabazz School on Watkins St. in Brownsville, Brooklyn. In addition to activists and lawmakers, Christ the King High School student Malcolm Xavier Combs will be there.

Combs made headlines when a teacher rejected his request to have ‘Malcolm X’ printed on his senior sweater instead of his full name.

The Department of Education has yet to issue a statement about the proposal.