Delaware lawmakers pass bill to include black history in schools

Lessons on black history will be included in all Delaware public school curricula starting in the 2022-2023 school year, according to a bill approved Thursday.

The State Senate has passed House Bill 198 by 16 votes to 5. The House adopted it 33-7 at the end of April. Both times Republicans voted no.

If signed by Governor John Carney, it would not create new classes for students. Rather, elements of black history are woven into subjects like science and the arts, according to its main sponsor, Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, D-Wilmington.

Carney’s office did not immediately respond to a request to see if the governor supported the bill.

The intention of the bill is to teach students about the contributions of blacks throughout American history, as well as “the ramifications of prejudice, racism and intolerance.” Schools should also address “citizens’ responsibilities” to “fight racism, inequalities and discrimination,” according to the text of the bill.

Districts and charter schools are responsible for creating their own programs for K-12 students. Lessons on black history would be needed to cover:

  • The history and culture of blacks before the African and black diaspora, including contributions to science, art and literature.
  • The importance of slavery in the development of the American economy.
  • The relationship between white supremacy, racism and American slavery.
  • The central role played by racism in the civil war.
  • How the tragedy of slavery was perpetuated by segregation and federal, state and local laws.
  • The contributions of blacks to American life, history, literature, economy, politics and culture.
  • The socio-economic struggle that blacks have endured and continue to endure in their efforts to achieve fair treatment in the United States; as well as the agency they employ in this work for equal treatment.
  • Black figures in national history and in Delaware history.

The bill does not include any mention of critical race theory. But it emphasizes the role that racism, white supremacy, and segregation have played throughout American history.

Debate of senators on race, local control

Legislative Hall in Dover

Democrats control three-fifths of both houses, so the bill’s passage on Thursday came as no surprise.

But ahead of Thursday’s vote, a handful of Republicans voiced concerns about the bill. Some have raised concerns about the bill that deprives local control of school districts.

Senator Bryant Richardson, R-Seaford, who voted against the bill, has raised doubts about what the program will cover.

“We don’t know how it’s going to be skewed one way or the other or if it’s just going to be an accurate history of what happened,” Richardson said. “I certainly hope that many of our history books speak of the positive achievements of all races.”

Senator Brian Pettyjohn, R-Georgetown, said he wanted lawmakers to “take a step back” and make sure history lessons cover “all of the groups that really make up this complex fabric that we are as a. ‘Americans’.

“The districts themselves should make the decision whether or not to apply this,” said Pettyjohn, who voted against the bill. “It’s not a question of ‘I don’t believe this history should be taught.’ I believe more history should be taught in our schools.”

Senator Marie Pinkney, D-New Castle, spoke out in favor of the bill, saying she only learned of the existence of many black historical figures by doing her own research as an adult, rather than at school.

“If we don’t include notable black figures and their history in our education, then the story is already skewed in a direction that huge numbers of people forget,” said Pinkney, who is black. “If I know who the people who impacted your life are who are the same color as your skin, you should know the people who impacted my life who are the same color as my skin. “

Senator Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, who voted no, replied to Pinkney: “How to overcome race, how to overcome racism when everything we do is based on it? … If there is a accomplishment, it shouldn’t just be recognized because of the color of the skin. I think it’s time for us to grow up and do better. “

Senator Trey Paradee, D-Dover, spoke in favor of the bill, calling it “late.”

“Black history has not been taught accurately in this country for a long time,” Paradee said. “And that is reflected in the policies that are adopted in the states, in our country.”

LEARN MORE ABOUT BLACK HISTORY BILL:As Red States Block Critical Racial Theory, Delaware Bill Pushes To Include Black History In Schools

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Sarah Gamard covers government and politics for Delaware Online / The News Journal. Contact her at (302) 324-2281 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @SarahGamard.


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