Delaware Governor John Carney signs bill ensuring Black history is taught in K-12 education
The Black History Education Legislation bill will officially go into effect in the 2022-23 academic school year.
On Thursday, June 17, Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law House Bill 198, making Black history education mandatory in the state.
The only way we can secure our future is to understand and reconcile our past. We have a deep and proud history, but many of us don’t know the full story. HB 198 is about helping all of us understand that full story – the good and the bad – so that we can secure a better future. pic.twitter.com/KlQKQkjU1o
— Governor John Carney (@JohnCarneyDE) June 17, 2021
The bill requires that every school district and charter school in the state serving K-12 students establish and implement a curriculum that provides Black history instruction as part of its educational programming.
As stated in the bill, schools will rely heavily on primary sourcing in teaching Black history, which includes the significance of enslavement in the development of American economy and the contributions of Black people to American life, history, literature, politics, culture and more.
In addition, the bill also requires instruction to recognize the impact of racial and historical trauma, while engaging students about the roles and responsibilities all citizens can play to combat racism.
Delaware State Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker is one of the sponsors of the bill.
Prior to its signing, she expressed that isolating Black History to just the month of February does a disservice to the countless Black Americans who have contributed to the nation throughout the past 400-plus years.
“Black history is American history,” said Dorsey Walker.
“When teaching the history of our nation, the achievements, challenges, contributions, struggles and triumphs of Black people should not be limited to one month, but be a part of every aspect of education, just as they unfolded in history,” she added.
Delaware Senator Elizabeth Lockman, another sponsor of the bill, detailed how teaching Black history provides an additional layer of accuracy when discussing the nation’s past.
“An accurate history of our nation and its people must make more than passing references to Black Americans. It should include a full account of our contributions to our country and our culture, well beyond the context of our subjugation,” said Senator Lockman.
“Our American history classes have always been full of stories of oppression and rebellion, struggle and triumph, yet not every student sees themselves reflected in that history despite the fact that their community persisted through similar experiences. Embracing our full history and sharing it with our young people will give them an opportunity to understand these interwoven narratives,” she added.
The timing in which this bill was signed is significant given how many states are contemplating how, and if, race should be taught in public schools. The topic of critical race theory has dominated headlines, especially over the past several months.
Just a week prior, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning schools from teaching critical race theory, due to his belief that the practice “teaches kids to hate our country and hate each other” and is, in simpler terms, “state-sanctioned racism.”
Florida has joined Arkansas, Idaho, Oklahoma, Texas and Tennessee as states that have officially passed legislation that bans critical race theory from being taught in schools, while nearly two dozen more states have introduced or are considering such bills.
Proponents of the practice argue that it should be taught as it is a part of history and can go a long way towards understanding and addressing inequality and racism in the U.S., while opponents argue that it simply promotes divisiveness among races, making the practice a bipartisan issue.
Jonathan Chism, assistant professor of history at the University of Houston–Downtown and co-editor of "Critical Race Studies Across Disciplines," argues that the discussion surrounding critical race theory is framed around a lack of definitive understanding of what it entails.
“Many that are condemning critical race theory haven’t read it or studied it intensely. This is largely predicated on fear: the fear of losing power and influence and privilege,” he told NBC News. “The larger issue that this is all stemming from is a desire to deny the truth about America, about racism.”
It is very likely that in the coming months, more bills regarding how race and history will and won’t be taught in public schools, will be introduced and signed in various states across the nation.
House Bill 198 in Delaware will officially go into effect beginning in the 2022-23 academic year.