As we close out Black History Month, we know we have both so much to celebrate and so much more work to do: On Friday President Joe Biden nominated Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, an exceptionally qualified jurist, to be the first Black woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. But at the same time, hundreds of bills have been introduced in states across the country in an effort to erase Black history.
Instead of celebrating and learning from the lived experience of Black Americans, these dividers and extremists are trying to sweep history under the rug, ban books and misrepresent what we teach in our public schools. Teachers are being scared into silence, and students are watching as they and their communities are being ignored.
But there is hope. A recent CBS poll showed that Americans overwhelmingly oppose book bans and want honest history taught in public schools. That’s why the African American History Act is so important. This bill from Rep. Jamaal Bowman and Sen. Cory Booker would invest in African American history education programs that would be available to students, parents, educators and school. I can’t think of a better way to end Black History Month than by voicing our support for this bill.
When Minnijean Brown and her eight classmates found themselves at the center of a painful fight for the freedom to learn, they never could've imagined that they'd come to be known as the "Little Rock Nine," but they knew their place in history would be a meaningful reminder for future students. Examples like this of our shared history should be used to remind students of Black Americans’ resilience and courage rather than politicized to sow greater division.
With the African American History Act, students, parents and educators will receive the support and resources they need to learn and teach full, honest American history. Black history is American history. Not every piece of that history is pleasant to remember, and some events may spark difficult emotions and conversations, but we must still teach it to our students, in age-appropriate ways, to ensure we don’t repeat our mistakes.
This bill not only will help us celebrate Black history every day—it will protect that history from being erased.
Randi Weingarten AFT President