Teachers Say There are Obstacles to Teaching Black HistoryHistorians in the News
tags: slavery, African American history, teaching history
Leslie Harris is a professor of history at Northwestern University, with a focus on the history of slavery in the United States. She said to not tell the full story of slavery, is to not tell the full story of America.
“It’s very difficult for teacher to fit this material in, given how the history curriculum has been shaped,” Harris said. “The use of slave labor here is a central part of our history and there’s a lot that we don’t understand if we don’t understand slavery.”
Not understanding slavery’s stain on this country is a subject that has led to calls for building names to be changed and statues to be brought down. Some Americans say that tearing those statues down does the very thing being protested, the erasing uncomfortable history.
But who should get to decide what gets included?
When Congress asked UCLA to update national history standards in the 90s by adding new elements of study, Lynne Cheney, the then head of the National Endowment for the Humanities, and a substantial part of the funding for the standards, complained that the details when it came to race and slavery were “gloomy” and ultimately called for unsent copies of the material to be destroyed.
“Lynne Cheney wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that said it was too depressing, that the standards didn’t focus enough on Robert E. Lee, the confederate general, they focused on Harriet Tubman too much and too much on the KKK and racism,” Harris said. “Now this is despite the fact that many teachers felt the changes were a great update and necessary.”
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