Activists push for black history to be taught in all American history classes in Caddo public schools

"We want black history to not only be black history, but American history”

Petition calls for black history to be taught in all American history classes in Caddo public schools

SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — 45 Days of Action-Shreveport is calling for the Caddo School Board to ensure black history is taught as part of all the American history courses in the parish’s public schools.

“If you only see history from one lens, then it’s hard to get the whole picture of who you are as a person, as a community, as a society," said Ebony Mitchell, of 45 Days of Action-Shreveport. "So we want black history to not only be black history, but American history.”

Representatives of the organization, for which Monday was Day 15 of its 45 days of action, say they are focusing on issued related to education and social justice this week.

In keeping with that, 45 Days of Action-Shreveport’s petition states:

“Shreveport is 56.4% black and the educational curriculum should represent history in a way that represents this reality. Black history is much more than slavery! There are pioneers, doctors, lawyers, architects, astronauts, engineers and many, many more. Our children will perish for a lack of knowledge. This history incorporated into ALL history courses will help combat the systemic disparities in the educational system. We must educate all students of the contributions of black Americans.”

The Louisiana Education Department says it provides guidance to Caddo and the state’s other school districts and other districts when it comes to their social studies curriculums.

School systems choose their own curriculum and it’s aligned to the learning standards the state provides, the Education Department reports.

“The contributions of black Louisianans are discussed in 3rd and 8th grade; slavery is primarily addressed in 5th grade, 7th grade and 8th grade; the Jim Crow era and segregation are discussed in 8th grade and U.S. history; the Great Migration and the Harlem Renaissance are discussed in 4th grade and U.S. history; and the civil rights movement and it’s legacy is primarily addressed in 4th grade, 8th grade, U.S. history and civics”.

PJ Brown-Coleman, of 45 Days of Action-Shreveport, said: “If these kids in these impoverished neighborhoods could understand and correlate why they are in the circumstances they are in, that’s vitally important.

“Growing up, a lot of kids think ‘Well, my mom just doesn’t make enough money. Why don’t we live in a house like this? Why don’t we have a car like this?'

“When you can understand that the trauma that has been done to your family is systemic, it’s not because your mommy isn’t trying enough, it’s because the system that she is in was built around slavery, if we want to be honest," Brown-Coleman continued. "So when you get to understand redlining, the different components to HUD, public housing or vouchers, you can correlate to why you are where you are and understand that it’s not your fault, it’s not your mommy’s fault and it’s not even your grandmother’s fault.

"This system was built for you to be at the bottom.”

Caddo School District, when asked for comment on 45 Days of Action-Shreveport’s petition to have black history taught in all American history courses in parish schools, issued the following statement:

“As a district with students who are predominantly African-American, it would be a disservice to not share the accomplishments and trials of African-Americans in U.S. history. Caddo Schools teaches social studies standards required by the Louisiana Department of Education but also allows teachers the flexibility to address new content relative to current events. Caddo Schools uses the Louisiana Department of Education as the main resource for curriculum. In addition to state standards, students learn about local civil rights activism, including events that occurred in Shreveport and Northwest Louisiana, through documentaries and research. The district recognizes the great responsibility to share American history which includes black History.”

The School District also said “Beyond Galilee,” a documentary about the civil rights movement in Shreveport, is shown to all middle school students. That’s one way the parish’s children are being taught about black history in their community and elsewhere in America.

“History is important," said Omari Ho-Sang, of 45 Days of Action-Shreveport. "Black history is vital. Not only to black folk, black children, but everybody. This is everybody’s history.”

Copyright 2020 KSLA. All rights reserved.