Activists Back History Month

By Linda Jacobson — January 10, 2006 1 min read
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Some members of San Francisco’s African-American community want the city’s school district to once again begin observing Black History Month in February, and to increase efforts to educate students throughout the school year about the significant contributions made by black Americans.

“[T]here is a tremendously important story to be told about black contributions to the life and development of San Francisco, California, and the United States,” David Wilson, the original plaintiff in a school desegregation case against the San Francisco Unified School District, wrote in a recent letter to U.S. District Judge William Alsup. The judge has been overseeing the case, which is coming to a close.

“The news that the district has excluded Black History Month, the presidentially proclaimed observance since 1976, from its academic calendar for 2005-2006,” Mr. Wilson wrote, “is a sign that you must use your authority over the welfare of African-American students to issue a temporary restraining order to prevent the continued exclusion of African-American content from the daily curriculum provided to all students in the district.”

Last May, several members of the city’s black community also presented the draft of a detailed policy to the school board that calls for the district to celebrate Black History Month and give greater attention to the contributions of African-Americans throughout the K-12 curriculum.

The proposal calls for 4th grade teachers to receive training on important moments in the history of the “black experience” in San Francisco and for schools and libraries to be equipped with “sufficient reference materials” on African-Americans.

But John William Templeton, an author and textbook publisher in the city, said the board has not taken any action on the proposal.

The draft policy has received support from the San Francisco Alliance of Black Educators, the National Council for Educating Black Students, and other groups.

It is the district’s practice to allow individual schools to choose how they commemorate special days, weeks, or months for cultural or ethnic groups, according to a spokesman for the district.

Mr. Templeton did receive an e-mail from school board President Eric Mar saying that he would recommend that Black History Month be added to the calendar and investigate the status of the proposed policy.

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