“Black History Is American History”

“Black History Is American History”

From ‘StrategiesMatters

By Dr. Carlen Padmore-Gateau

The murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, spurred and shifted a new path in a movement that has reawakened the spirit of activism and a deep yearning for truth in our country. The truth included the ill-treatment of black people in the United States of America and the fact that black people should and do matter. This truth is filled with uncomfortable facts and historical moments that we can no longer hide from our American children. Interestingly enough, we were having uncomfortable conversations about race and learning about the contributions of black people, and it wasn’t even February, a month that traditionally marks the advent of Black History Month in America. So, as educators, we began to create resources that brought these events into our schools.

Fast forward to February 2022; it appears that educators have seemingly fallen back to our old habits of seeing black history as separate and apart from American history. Let us take this opportunity to continue with courageous conversations about race and ensure that the contributions of black people are taught to all of our children year-round. This should be evident in the resources and programs we allow in our schools to include leadership and equity practices. Let us not forget the movement that impacted us all. As educators, we have the power to teach our children that black history is American history!

Educators can play a significant role within their classrooms by using existing resources, for example, the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CR-S) framework. Dr. Steve A. Dorcely notes, “The CR-S is a great resource available to all educators, and it can serve as one of many guides with a long list of strategies that bring cultural contexts alive.” The CR-S ponders:

Historically, education debates have been polarized, with differences sometimes viewed as an individual deficit. The CR-S Framework marks our journey forward and begins the evolution toward leveraging difference as an asset. The Framework is grounded in four principles*:

• Welcoming and Affirming Environment

• High Expectations and Rigorous Instruction

• Inclusive Curriculum and Assessment

• Ongoing Professional Learning

(NYSED, CR-S, 2018, p.7)

Reflecting on the context of black history as American history, the following four CR-S strategies highlight Dr. Padmore-Gateau’s commitment to empowering today’s pedagogues.

Creating a welcoming and affirming environment

“Provide space for teachers and staff to process and determine how to engage with students and families after social and political events that impact the wider community” (NYSED, CR-S, 2018, p. 32).

Fostering high expectations and rigorous instruction

“Develop in-school inquiry-based teams to address instructional rigor, cultural responsiveness, achievement disparities, and student engagement” (NYSED, CR-S, 2018, p. 32).

Identifying inclusive curriculum and assessment

“Support staff in embedding grade-level, standards-aligned resources that emphasize cultural pluralism; social justice; and current events into curriculum across content areas” (NYSED, CR-S, 2018, p. 34).

Engaging in ongoing professional learning and support

“Use data and research to identify teachers with strong culturally responsive-sustaining practices and racial literacy skills and allow time for them to share their practices (i.e., peer observations, professional learning, etc.)” (NYSED, CR-S, 2018, p. 35).

Reference Links for This Article


— Edited by Dr. Steve A. Dorcely and Dr. Shawna K. Hansford

Hear more from Dr. Dorcely and Dr. Hansford on our podcast at this link.


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