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What Black Parents Think About How Black History Is Taught (Opinion)

The manufactured “crisis” over wokeness and critical race theory continues to have an impact on K-12 education. The concerted effort by conservative politicians, advocates, and academics to dismantle anti-racist teachings has focused, in part, on riling up parents (with a particular focus on white parents) over the kind of history instruction their children are receiving.

Black parents are rarely the focus, in the media or elsewhere, in these conversations. However, Black parents have pushed for more Black history for decades.

Meanwhile, I have been having my own conversations with Black parents about our children’s experiences in history classrooms. The Black parents I talk to are concerned about the lack of Black history education their children are receiving and teachers’ knowledge and instructional comfort with the material, as well as administrators’ interest in holding teachers accountable for poor instructional planning.

While their views are not uniform, Black parents want the same thing: to be confident that their children are receiving a holistic history education that encompasses a Black history that centers our humanity, identifies transgressors, and celebrates who we are as a people. These informal conversations have centered on what scholars like Stephanie P. Jones have called curriculum and pedagogical violence. This sort of violence consists of curricular and pedagogical approaches that end up causing psychological, intellectual, emotional, and sometimes physical harm to children of color. Examples can include instruction regarding slavery math problems, lessons asking students to defend slavery, or just simply ignoring Black history in schools.

This survey is the beginning of a research project, conducted by the Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education at the University at Buffalo, which I run. With this project, we are dedicated to studying how Black parents and parents of Black children advocate Black history education. We started with five questions promoted through my social media outlets.

These questions we asked Black parents were:

The purpose of this simple survey was to give voice to Black parents around what they viewed as important or essential about the teaching of Black history in schools. The parents were asked to contact me via email if they were interested in participating. Since the initial invitations were sent through my social media accounts, I had some familiarity with the parents through personal, professional, or social media contact. Because of this familiarity, I understood all parents identify as Black. Once the parents contacted me via email, I sent them a Google form link with the questions above. This sample includes 20 Black parents, and I have edited the responses for length and clarity. The responses came from a geographically diverse group of parents from across the United States, with the exception of the Pacific Northwest. Their ages range between 21 and 63 years old, and their education attainment spans from high school diploma to doctoral and law degrees. Their kids attend public, private, and home schools.

1. What does Black history mean to you?

2. Why is it important for your child to learn Black history in schools? If you do not think it is important, why not?

3. What Black History content do you think needs to be taught in schools and why? What Black history content does not need to be taught?

4. What do you want teachers to consider as they plan lessons associated with Black history?

5. What are your thoughts about politicians restricting the teaching of race, racism, and/or Black history in schools?

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