Imagine being kidnapped from your native land; taken away from your family permanently and sold into a life of servitude.
Such was the fortune of millions of Africans sold in the slave trade as a cheap labor force, which actually fueled the early economy in the American colonies, becoming the origin of Black history in this country.
Since 1619, when the first African slaves arrived in the Jamestown colony, the African slave trade has been the foundation of not only Black history, but American history, taught to millions of students throughout the generations.
However, states like Texas and Arizona are poised to rewrite American history, renaming the slave trade the “Atlantic triangular trade” and omitting Barack Obama’s presidency, and in the case of Arizona, dismantling all ethnic studies courses (including Black history and Chicano studies) because it allegedly creates a resentment of Whites.
Rewriting social studies textbooks in Texas is extremely controversial because Texas textbooks usually set the precedent for other state curriculums because the state is such a huge purchaser of books, publishers write them to fit their standards.
“The standards are looking real good now. We’ve made some significant improvements, and I am proud of what the board has done,” said Don McLeroy, Texas board member and the writer of many of the curriculum changes.
However, educators in states like California are not singing Texas’ praises as they closely monitor the curriculum changes in the Lone Star State.
“While some Texas politicians may want to set their educational standards back 50 years, California should not be subject to their backward curriculum changes,” said Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.
California’s neighbor to the east, Arizona, recently banned any course that promotes overthrowing the United States government, promotes the resentment of other races or is designed primarily for one ethnic group. Furthermore Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and the state legislature have barred any teacher with a heavy accent from teaching English courses in the state.
Many who support the new curriculum rules in Arizona and Texas will state that teaching all the details of Black history and Chicano studies will only move America backwards and not forward by focusing on an era of extreme racism. However, many critics believe that if one does not remember the mistakes of the past than they are bound to repeat them in the future.
Unfortunately, if students are not taught the horrors of the Middle Passage (slave trade) and the Holocaust, than countless generations will grow up not knowing the consequences and devastation that comes from systemic racism and discrimination.
During the Reconstruction era, recently freed Black slaves were elected to political offices throughout the South. Colleges were built that were dedicated to educating liberated Black Americans and integrate them into society as true American citizens.
However, the White backlash that erupted after the Civil War led to the formation of the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow laws throughout the South. It took America approximately 100 years to correct the mistakes of Jim Crow, which created another black eye for those who lived through that era of Black history.
After the historic election of President Obama some predicted the same backlash. Let’s just hope that America has learned from past mistakes and Black history will not receive another black eye that takes another 100 years to recover from.
Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.