By Fiona English
Throughout our public school careers, we all celebrated February as Black History Month. Most schools celebrated this month by teaching some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and putting on some movies such as Ruby Bridges, the story of the first Black girl in integrated schools in the south.
With such notable memories of childhood teachings, why is there such a lack of Black history taught in our public schools? Most schools do not teach the truths of the past, such as Juneteenth, the day slaves were emancipated, the 3,446 lynchings that occurred across the nation, or the countless other histories of minorities in this country. When we learn about history, we are taught about this nation’s foundation, starting with Columbus. Yet, there was a failure to mention the countless Black slaves, Chinese laborers, Hispanic workers, and so on in our history in every history lesson taught. Quite frankly, I did not even learn about lynchings until the third semester of college, about the Chinese laborers in California or the several wars with Mexico fought over Texas. These historical events are very significant to understand the diversity that makes us a whole. Many may argue that one unique thing about America is its diversity. To strip the history of the minorities from public education is essentially stripping essential parts of history from Americans.
Only now is Black history being incorporated into Florida public school curriculums following George Floyd’s death. On June 25th, 2020, Governor Ron Desantis signed a bill forcing all schools to teach the Ocoee Massacre of 1920. The Ocoee Massacre was a brutal riot of a mob of white people setting Black communities on fire after a Black man showed up to the polls to vote. Still, in many states, Black History is not required to be taught in history classes.
Why is Black History not being taught? Why is so much of our real history hidden from us? There is no simple answer to this question or even one answer. I have scoured the internet and sources to find a straightforward solution to this centuries-spanning question, and yet, nothing.
While the internet cannot provide a solid answer, I believe I can. When the US was still part of the slave trade, it was imperative that slaves never received an education and were society’s downcasts. As more Black people were integrated into the public school system, the histories of slaves and African Americans in this country were never taught.
Essentially, history had been introduced to the white majority of the class and therefore pertained to matters only involving whites. African Americans never had a place in history textbooks.
Today, history textbooks have slowly evolved. There are slight increases in Black History but not significant enough to be recognized as essential to public school students. Here at FSW, we have the opportunity to read about the Black History of America, and we are encouraged to explore these topics.
As time goes on and history progresses, we can only hope for a better future and a change in our education system through public advocacy, awareness, and reform.