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Afro-futurism focus of teaching Black history conference

Promotional graphic for a Black History conference featuring the words" Black to the future, Afro-futurism as Black History" and a colorful illustration of a person.


Published July 5, 2024

LaGarret King.
“A lot of times when we think about history, we’re thinking about the past. But in many ways, history shapes the future as well. ”
LaGarrett King, director
Center for K–12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education

Teaching Black history continues to be a polarizing issue in the U.S. A recent proposal to strike terms like “white supremacy” and “systematic racism” from Virginia’s elective courses on African American history and the continuation of teaching the “benefits” of slavery in the Florida public school system highlight some of the conflict among politicians, parents and school boards on the subject.

Despite the turmoil, teachers continue to look for ways to improve teaching Black history to their students, and for that, they turn to LaGarrett King and UB’s Center for K–12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education. King, the center’s director, created the Teaching Black History Conference. Now in its seventh year, the theme of the 2024 conference, set for July 26-28, is “Black to the Future: Afro-futurism as Black History.” It’s designed to push the boundaries of learning by reconceptualizing the past and present through writing about the future.

“A lot of times when we think about history, we’re thinking about the past. But in many ways, history shapes the future as well,” King notes. “If we understand the history, then we can alter our future in many different ways, but that starts with historical knowledge.”

That knowledge, he says, will be used to imagine a future without racism and anti-Blackness.

King explains that Afro-futurism is a movement that blends science fiction, history and fantasy to explore the experiences of the African diaspora. It’s a way of looking at the future through a Black lens, imagining worlds where Black people are at the forefront of technology, culture and exploration.

“We’re going to use our knowledge of the past as commentary and reclaim it for Black people’s future,” he says. “Not one of despair, but one that reimagines what it means to be Black in a society that historically was meant for us not to survive.”

Afro-futurism combines science fiction, history and fantasy to explore and connect the Black experience to forgotten African ancestry. King says that to reimagine a safe and free world for Black people, Afro-futurism must use history as its foundation.

“Afro-futurism evaluates the past to create a better present and prepare for a future void of those problematic histories,” he says. “It’s about using science fiction that is fact-based to teach about Blackness that diverges from societal understandings about Black people and their history.

“For many, it is commentary on where we have been. In many ways, it is about teaching us about our history that has been forgotten or ignored.”

The Teaching Black History Conference — the center’s signature event — convenes hundreds of teachers to learn the best curricular and instructional practices surrounding Black history education.

“We host expert speakers and entertainment, but the stars of the conference are our teachers,” King says. “Each conference session is led by a classroom teacher who shares their Black history strategies. The sessions are interactive, so participants will have hands-on experiences to bring to their classrooms.”

This year’s takes place July 26-28. The first two days of the conference are in-person in Diefendorf Hall on the South Campus, while the final day is being held virtually.

The sessions are for pre-K-12 teachers, coordinators, school administrators, community educators, business owners and anyone interested in improving Black history education.

More information about the conference can be found on its website; click here to register

Those with questions can contact King at or 716-645-2455.