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Social Studies Opinion

Celebrating Black History Education: A Collection

A Note From the Guest Editor, LaGarrett J. King

Every February, I remind Education Week readers that the forefather of Black History Month, Carter G. Woodson, meant for the occasion to be a time when schools and communities would celebrate the Black histories they learned throughout the year. I explain to teachers to not think of February as the time to start teaching or learning about Black history but rather a type of assessment of the teaching and learning that should happen all year.

Black History Month is also a time for reflection. We should consistently consider how we as teachers, community members, and a general society understand, learn, and teach about Black people. This means reflecting on the books we write and consume, the movies we create and watch, and, of course, how our education policies are written, interpreted, and executed across the country.

As I was reflecting, I was tempted to speak to the inhumane aspects of our current political culture seeking to erase any critical Black histories that speak of racism, white supremacy, and oppression. I am ashamed—but not surprised—by the bad faith politicians and citizens who sow confusion around the terms “woke” and “critical race theory” to restrict which histories are taught in our classrooms. These efforts have led to laws targeting Black history education in 18 states, higher than the number of states that have Black history mandates.

I am also disappointed in those politicians who did little to stop these restrictions. I, as well as many others, understand the importance of Black history curricula and racially literate teaching. The goal is to help students identify injustices in society with the hope that these young citizens will finally be the generation to eradicate these inequalities.

This year’s special Education Week Opinion project celebrating Black History Month, however, will focus on what is going or what has gone well in Black history education.

I hope you have an eventful 2024 Black History Month celebrating the history of Black history education, curriculum and teaching strategies, teacher professional development, professional highlights of Black history educators, and Black history resources. With all the negativity connected with Black history education, just know that there are educators all over the country who provide high-quality Black history education for our children and for the general public every day.

LaGarrett J. King is an associate professor of social studies education at the University at Buffalo and the founding director of the university’s Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education.

Editor’s note: Camilla Sucre is the illustrator for this project. She is a first-generation Trinidadian American illustrator with a passion for telling stories with art. She loves vampires, diverse representation in the media, and fashion.

You Should Be Teaching Black Historical Contention
How to responsibly teach this critical component of Black history instruction —and why you should.
The Instructive Story of This Jim Crow Era Black History Contest
What an overlooked initiative in the segregated South tells us today about teaching Black history to white students.
What the Country's First Mandatory Black History Course Can Teach Us Today
Decades before AP African American Studies came along, Black women were the driving force behind an unprecedented education reform.
I Train Teachers to Teach Black History. Here’s What I’ve Learned
Here’s how I’ve tried to reclaim Black history from the margins—and how you can do the same.

More From This Collection

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Recent highlights in Black history education, from the Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education’s LaGarrett J. King.
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Social Studies Opinion What Black Parents Think About How Black History Is Taught
The preferences of Black parents are rarely the focus in debates over Black history instruction. Here’s what these survey respondents had to say.
LaGarrett J. King , February 22, 2024
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Past Black History Projects

Social Studies Opinion The Urgency of Black History: A Collection
A strong Black history program is about more than building a curriculum; it’s about building citizens. Here’s where to start.
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Xia Gordon for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion What Black History Month Should Mean: A Collection
Amid national backlash against racially conscious instruction, it will take hard work to improve how Black history is taught in schools.
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Erin Robinson for Education Week
Equity & Diversity Opinion How to Get Black History Right: A Series
What does it mean to be an educator of Black history? Educators, students, and historians explore.
Image of Carter G. Woodson
AP Photo and Getty