LaGarrett King, PhD shares his research on teaching Black histories dismantling the notion of “Black history as American history” and offers instead a conceptualization of teaching Black histories through Black historical consciousness principles.
The intent of this article is to examine the significance of Carter G. Woodson to the historical development of the fields of curriculum and social studies, particularly as they relate to the evolution of the modern multicultural movement. The authors focus on Woodson’s contributions through his curriculum and his pedagogical efforts in establishing a more rigorous and historically accurate social studies framework through his community education initiatives, the Negro History Bulletin, and his textbooks. They conclude the article with a discussion of how Woodson’s efforts can have direct implications for social studies educators.
On September 2, 2005 during a live broadcast of NBC Universal Television Group’s A Concert for Hurricane Relief , hip-hop artist, Kanye West deviated from a pre-pared script to proclaim, “George Bush doesn’t care about Black people” (NBC News, 2005). The television show, which was watched by 8.5 million people, was part of a benefit concert for the American Red Cross to help the Gulf coast victims of Hurricane Katrina. The Category 5 hurricane killed thousands of people, destroyed property, and displaced many American citizens throughout the United States—Katrina is considered one of the deadliest and destructive hurricanes in US history. Excluding West, the president was widely criticized for the government’s response to Katrina. Five years later in promoting his memoir, Decision Points (Bush, 2010), the former president remarked that West’s comments served as the worst moment in his presidency.
During Bush’s two terms as President of the United States, other major controversies and tragedies took place. Events such as September 11th and the War on Terror, Iraq and (the lack of) weapons of mass destruction, Abu Ghraib and torture, and the Great Recession of 2008 were watershed moments during his tenure. Yet, none of the aforementioned occurrences or the federal government’s response to Katrina, New Orleans, and other Gulf coast cities was mentioned but comments made by an entertainer implying that he was racist was his “personal nadir” (Logan, 1954). He explained that he could not be racist because of his record of appointing non-Whites to his presidential cabinet in Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Rod Paige and Alphonzo Jackson; his No Child Left Behind Act, which was meant to curtail the “soft bigotry of low expectations” (Bush, 2010, p. 325) for AfricanAmerican students; and his 15 billion dollar HIV/AIDS program in Africa. While the scope of this chapter is not to extrapolate whether George Bush is or is not a racist, his comments about being called a racist and his response are appropriate in explaining the discourse on non-racist/anti-racist curriculum and pedagogical policy.
The year 2015 marked a century since Carter G. Woodson and his colleagues created the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (originally ASNLH, now ASALH), the first Black history organization that successfully “promoted, researched, preserved, interpreted, and disseminated information about Black life, history, and culture to the global community.”1 Woodson, with help from ASALH, had a profound impact on efforts to institutionalize Black history in schools. Between 1915 and 1950, Woodson and his colleagues established a foundation for K-12 Black history education. They did so by authoring several K-12 Black history textbooks, designing Black history home study courses for school-aged children, establishing a K-12 Black history teacher journal, and promoting Negro History Week (now Black History Month) in schools.2 Woodson envisioned these programs as temporary, and only the first steps at integrating K-12 Black history within the mainstream social studies curriculum.
Scholars have long promoted black history as an appropriate space to promote the development of racial literacy. Few research studies, however, have examined how teacher education uses black history as a heuristic to teach about race. Using racial literacy as a framework, this article examined the varied ways four social studies pre-service teachers interpret and taught race through black history. The pre-service teachers were aided by a black history summer reading program dedicated to help them gain the necessary knowledge to teach race through black history. The findings indicated that the pre-service teachers taught race and black history more critical than traditional US history classes but were limited in their presentation of black history and race.
“The problem of the Twentieth Century,” W.E.B. Du Bois wrote within the first few pages of his seminal 1903 book The Souls of Black Folk, “is the problem of the color-line.” Du Bois’s prediction proved correct, as race played a central role in shaping American politics, housing patterns, criminal-justice decisions, and education policy throughout the twentieth century. We do not know if Du Bois thought the “problem of the color-line” would extend into the twenty-first century, but race remains a polarizing issue—and one that often leads to silence and avoidance in classrooms and communities. For example, 73 percent of millennials who took part in a national 2014 poll believe that open dialogue is needed on racial matters, but only 20 percent of respondents said they feel comfortable talking about discrimination, race, and bias.