Teaching African American History in Virginia

Frederick Douglass

By James C. Sherlock

I fully support integrating African American history into the broad sweep of history taught in the nation’s primary and secondary schools.  

On September 17, there will be a Virginia Board of Education meeting with an agenda item titled “Report from the Governor’s African American History Education Commission, August 2020”  (the Report). 

I will offer here a positive, optimistic approach.

But first, the fiercely negative approach to the teaching of African American history offered by the Governor’s Commission.

ministers of despair

I just finished reading the Report that will be considered on September 17. I urge you to read it. See postscript for how to comment for the record to the VBOE  by 5 PM on Wednesday, September 16.

It represents perhaps the most profoundly pessimistic recounting possible both of America itself and of the way to incorporate African American history into the curricula into Virginia schools. 

The Report is critical race theory brought to life. It represents the most thoroughly negative view of America’s history and pessimism about its future as a nation that I have ever encountered in a government document anywhere.

Many universities have had success at radicalization. This recommends an earlier start.  Kindergarten.

If I were a Cuban American who escaped Castro, a Jewish American who escaped Hitler or Stalin, or an African immigrant who recently arrived from Sudan, or a recent arrival from Venezuela, I would simply be mystified.

If I were an active teacher, I would refuse. 

Teachers work every day to impart knowledge that leaves students looking forward to not only to their next day of school but to the lives they have in front of them.  

The report uses the term white 75 times. Once is for someone’s last name. Every other time it is used as a pejorative, often in reference to white teachers who the Report suggests need initial and ongoing re-orientation to continue in their jobs.  

“Ms. Johnson identified the importance of in-depth professional development, especially considering that most teachers are white women. Mr. Hairston agreed and added that students also should be encouraged to read and use primary sources.”  

“Ms. Jennings stressed equity as a major component of helping white teachers gain the capacity to properly teach African American history and engage with all their students. Mr. Girvan added that white teachers may find the content of African American history uncomfortable and so may go past it quickly or explain it poorly.”

And that was from the “Educator Panel,” not public comment.   

The inescapable takeaway is that white teachers are not to be trusted without re-programming.  Even so, students cannot rely on white teachers to tell them the truth. Students must consult “primary sources,” identified in the Report’s Appendix F as the works of America’s critical race theory gurus.

Enough.

An Optimistic Alternative

I offer a profoundly different alternative, a way to teach that will bring optimism to students and teachers while still bringing forth the facts of slavery and Jim Crow.

My recommendation is to offer such teaching in context of the lives of African Americans who overcame those adversities to succeed. Tell optimistic stories of success while ensuring that students learn the daunting, and in the case of slavery, inhumane conditions they overcame.  

This approach will impart lessons of the past, positive and negative, while leaving black children proud of their heritage and white children proud that America produced such men and women and determined to do better in their own lives.

Examples

Start with the life and times of Martin Luther King.

The life of Thurgood Marshall  July 2, 1908 – January 24, 1993. He was without question the greatest African American lawyer and jurist in American history.

The life of the former slave Clara Brown (c. 1800–1885) who spent time working the fields in Virginia. She married another enslaved person when she was eighteen and together they had four children. In 1835, Brown’s family was broken apart when they were all sold to different slave owners. At the age of 56, she was granted her freedom. She went west on a wagon train and ultimately became a community leader, philanthropist and aided settlement of former slaves during the time of Colorado’s Gold Rush. She was known as the ‘Angel of the Rockies’ and made her mark as Colorado’s first black settler and a prosperous entrepreneur.

The history of Black owned companies like McKissack & McKissack, a 114-year old architectural and engineering that was founded in 1905 in Nashville, Tenn., by Moses McKissack. It was the first African-American-owned architectural firm in the United States and is the oldest African American-owned architecture and engineering firm in the country. It seemingly built half of Nashville and is now headquartered in New York City. As of 2013, the family-owned successor companies were reported to have more than 150 professional staff members and over $15 billion in projects. Cheryl McKissack Daniel is the current President & CEO.

The lives of Black economists including the prominent scholars Walter Williams of George Mason University and Thomas Sowell of UCLA and the Hoover Institution. 

Williams, born March 31, 1936, grew up in a single-parent household in a poor section of Philadelphia. He was raised by his mother, who was a high school dropout. The family spent time on welfare, and eventually moved into the Richard Allen public housing project.  

Sowell, born June 30, 1930 and whose father died before he was born, was the son of a maid. His Up From the Projects – An Autobiography is an inspiration to anyone fortunate enough to read it. 

The lives of these two men will teach American children more of the struggles of growing up poor and black in post-WW II projects that anything in the Report.

The life of the Black business leader Robert L. Johnson, co-founder of BET, the first African American billionaire. He  was born in 1946 in Hickory, Mississippi, the ninth out of ten children to Edna and Archie Johnson. His mother was a schoolteacher and his father was a farmer. He earned a masters degree from Princeton. BET was the first black-controlled company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1991.

The lives of STEM heroines like Ursula Burns of Xerox and the great Katherine Johnson. 

In 2014, Forbes rated Ms. Burns, then CEO of XEROX, the 22nd most powerful woman in the world. She was a leader of the STEM program of the White House from 2009 to 2016, and head of the President’s Export Council from 2015 until 2016.  Burns was raised by a single mother in the Baruch Houses, a New York city housing project. Both of her parents were Panamanian immigrants. She attended Cathedral High School, a Catholic all-girls school on East 56th Street in New York. She has a Master of Science in mechanical engineering from Columbia.

The great NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson was born in 1918 in White Sulfur Springs, W.V. Because Greenbrier County did not offer African-American schooling past the 8th grade, her parents sent her to high school in Institute, W.V.  After graduating from high school at 14, Johnson enrolled at West Virginia State, a historically black college. As a student, she took every math course offered by the college. Multiple professors mentored her, including the chemist and mathematician She graduated summa cum laude in 1937, with degrees in mathematics and French, at age 18.  She and her family lived in Newport News from 1953.  Her calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent U.S. crewed spaceflights. See the acclaimed movie Hidden Figures for both her struggles and her successes.

The life of Richmond’s black businesswoman and teacher Maggie Walker (July 1864-Dec. 1934). Walker was the first African-American woman to charter a bank and serve as its president in the United States. Her mother was a former slave and her father was a butler.

The life and times of James Derham (1762—1802), born into slavery in Philadelphia, was the first African American to practice medicine in America. He was owned by three doctors in the Philadelphia area. In one of the households he learned to read and write. In 1788 he was sold to a prominent surgeon in New Orleans, and the surgeon encouraged Derham to learn medicine. He showed great aptitude and learned surgery. He gained his freedom and was permitted to practice among the freemen and slaves of New Orleans. He was a successful physician and, necessary in New Orleans, fluent in French, English, and Spanish. He would have been a godsend to African-Americans who would not have been allowed to visit a white doctor. Though James Derham’s skills were well-known and his practice flourished, New Orleans passed regulations in 1801 that prevented him from practicing medicine since he had no formal medical degree.

The life and times of James McCune Smith (1813-1865). Smith was an American physician, apothecary, abolitionist, and author in New York City. He was the first African American to hold a medical degree and graduated at the top in his class at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. After his return to the United States, he became the first African American to run a pharmacy in this nation. He has been most well known for his leadership as an abolitionist: a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, with Frederick Douglass he helped start the National Council of Colored People in 1853, the first permanent national organization for blacks. Douglass called Smith “the single most important influence on his life.”

Frederick Douglass (1818–1895) was an escaped slave. Harvard Professor of English and Civil War historian John Stauffer tells this story, reflecting on the friendship between the Douglass and President Lincoln.

When Frederick Douglass came to Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural reception in 1865, policemen blocked his way — until the President came to welcome him.

“Here comes my friend Douglass,” Lincoln said, taking Douglass by the hand.”There is no man in the country whose opinion I value more than yours.”

Douglas published “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself.” in Boston in 1845. His last autobiography, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, was first published in 1881 and revised in 1892, three years before his death.  The book covers events both during and after the Civil War. He was also a believer in dialogue and in making alliances across racial and ideological divides, as well as in the liberal values of the U.S. Constitution. Douglass was a firm believer in the equality of all peoples, be they white, black, female, Native American, or Chinese immigrants. 

Surely there are those among us can find enough history in the lives of those great Black Americans to serve as the canvas upon which African American history is painted for Virginia’s primary and secondary students.  

If they cannot, we need better historians.  

Based on the Report that parroted much of current theory of education in the humanities and social sciences, we also need better education schools.

A Higher Authority

I will finish with excerpts from a speech in which Frederick Douglass challenged the opinions of most observers, including most African Americans, by advocating the acceptance of Chinese immigration.  

I quote from that speech because Douglass could have been speaking of the people that wrote the Report.

“It is thought by many, and said by some, that this Republic has already seen its best days; that the historian may now write the story of its decline and fall.

Two classes of men are just now especially afflicted with such forebodings. The first are those who are croakers by nature—the men who have a taste for funerals, and especially National funerals. They never see the bright side of anything and probably never will. . .

But the American people … have a right to be impatient and indignant at those among ourselves who turn the most hopeful portents into omens of disaster, and make themselves the ministers of despair when they should be those of hope, and help cheer on the country in the new and grand career of justice upon which it has now so nobly and bravely entered. Of errors and defects we certainly have not less than our full share, enough to keep the reformer awake, the statesman busy, and the country in a pretty lively state of agitation for some time to come. Perfection is an object to be aimed at by all, but it is not an attribute of any form of Government. Neutrality is the law for all. 

Something different, something better, or something worse may come, but so far as respects our present system and form of Government, and the altitude we occupy, we need not shrink from comparison with any nation of our times…”

Frederick Douglass, Boston, 1869

Postscript

I urge you to make inputs to the Board of Education meeting that will discuss the Report. Send your input to  [email protected]. Without it there is every chance they will take the Report as the sum of received wisdom on the subject.  Without contrasting inputs, that will seem the path of least resistance. Written public comment received by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, September 16 will be considered by the Board and posted on the Board’s web page.

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49 responses to “Teaching African American History in Virginia

  1. The untold story of slavery is how African-Americans maintained a remarkable culture in the shadow of a horrific, oppressive system.

  2. In addition to the success stories, how about some education in how it was for ordinary Blacks? I recommend “Weevils in the Wheat” interviews by member of the Federal Writers’ Project with Virginia ex-slaves.

    • Yes Mr. Dick. This is an a treasure chest of history. I routinely prescribed this material and many other articles from the Works Progress Administration attempt to capture authentic local history. It remains a reliable voice to all of Virginia’s stories.

    • Yes, by all means teach the full truth about the evil and atrocities of slavery.

      If, however, the whole story is told, it will certainly include the tremendous sacrifices made to rid the country of slavery. We fought a long terrible war about the issue. How many suffered and died fighting to end it? How many casualties in that war, and who were they? What about their disfigured bodies and scars? Isn’t that also part of the story?

      In addition to those who lost their lives in battle many more met their death from dysentery, typhoid, pneumonia, tuberculosis, malaria, and even measles. Many also died in prisons from poor treatment and starvation. Not a pleasant way to go. Where’s that mentioned in the report?

      The report, with its many references to “white” makes no mention of “white” abolitionists, “white” participants in the underground railroad or “white” soldiers.

      As mentioned within the article, “white” is primarily used as a pejorative in this report. So this is how we bring people together? This is an example of being inclusive? The word “inclusive” is used 23 times in the report. I question if the authors understand what that word means.

      The contribution of African Americans in the fight against slavery and injustice needs to be fully expounded, but not at the expense of historical accuracy. This too should be an “inclusive” telling in the true sense of that word.

      From the report:
      “Slavery helped propel the success of states like Virginia and perpetuated injustice, but it also was home to the underground railroad and efforts by African Americans to assert their freedom.”

      The work and sacrifices for freedom were not born exclusively by African Americans. Harriet Tubman, Rev. Jermain Wesley Loguen, Robert Purvis, John Parker, William Still and numerous other African Americans were joined by Gerrit Smith, Levi Coffin, Rev. Calvin Fairbank, Charles Torrey and sea captain Jonathan Walker. John Fairfield of Virginia also deserves mention.

      • I heartily agree. My main objective here was to talk the Virginia Board of Education down off the ledge of teaching Black history as what Jim calls below an oppression narrative into a more inspiring approach. And most Americans of every color do want to inspire their children, not depress and radicalize them. This Commission recommends a different path with a different goal.

        I did not try to describe the entire K-12 American and Virginia history syllabi. Your recommendations, like those of Dick above, are excellent.

        • High school students should also be encouraged to read directly from primary sources.

          For example, students shouldn’t just read about Dred Scott, they should be required to read the entire document for themselves, including the dissenting opinions. Doing so would give them an unfiltered window into history.

          Perceptive students might then see some of the inherent contradictions within the narrative espoused by the 1619 project and similar efforts.

          Dred Scott v. Sandford is widely regarded as the worst U.S. Supreme Court decision in U.S. history. That being the case, I read in complete disbelief when a writer for my local newspaper expressed a view of the Declaration of Independence that aligns perfectly with that of the majority opinion in that case (written by Chief Justice Taney), and quite at odds with the dissenting opinions of Justices McLean and Curtis.

          Here’s what he wrote, which is a view all to prevalent these days:

          “Our original contradiction was the inherent disconnect between the Independence Day narrative and reality for African Americans, for whom the flowery words of the Declaration of Independence were never intended.”

          As you can see, the writer’s view of the Declaration is in perfect agreement with Chief Justice Taney who wrote in the deeply flawed majority opinion for Dred Scott.

          Here’s an excerpt of the majority opinion by Taney:

          “In the opinion of the court, the legislation and histories of the times, and the language used in the Declaration of Independence, show that neither the class of persons who had been imported as slaves nor their descendants, whether they had become free or not, were then acknowledged as a part of the people, nor intended to be included in the general words used in that memorable instrument.”

          https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/60/393/#tab-opinion-1964281

          How can anyone alive today think that Chief Justice Taney’s opinion was correct? Slavery was an injustice and violation of the principles of our founding document – The Declaration of Independence. It was Justices McLean and Curtis who got it right, not Taney.

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            Judge Taney certainly had to be aware of the wealth tied up in slavery. Converting the economic value of slavery in 1860 to 2016 dollars reveals an astounding 13 trillion dollar figure. No judge was going to just let 13 trillion dollars walk away free. Not defending Taney. But that had to be a consideration in the ruling. Money often overrides our founding principles.

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            A very interesting economic study on slavery can be found here. If you love tables and economics this is right up your alley.
            https://www.measuringworth.com/slavery.php

          • “Money often overrides our founding principles.”

            Money IS our founding principle. Remember the Stamp Act?

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V wrote:

            “Judge Taney certainly had to be aware of the wealth tied up in slavery. Converting the economic value of slavery in 1860 to 2016 dollars reveals an astounding 13 trillion dollar figure.”

            But that’s my point. Dred Scott was a corrupt ruling, not a faithful rendering of the our founding documents and history. It’s an outright lie to teach that the Declaration of Independence didn’t mean what it quite clearly said. It was a lie when the Dred Scott decision was written, and it’s a lie now. Most troubling is that today we have people in politics and the news media spouting words similar to Taney’s lies rather than the words of those uncorrupted by the financial implications of decision like Frederick Douglas and Abraham Lincoln.

            “Frederick Douglass, Lincoln, and Others React to the Dred Scott Decision”

            https://famous-trials.com/dredscott/2551-frederick-douglass-lincoln-and-others-react-to-the-dred-scott-decision

            People in the Northern state were furious with the court. See this from the Chicago Tribune from March 12, 1856:

            “We must confess we are shocked at the violence and servility of the Judicial Revolution caused by the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States. We scarcely know how to express our detestation of its inhuman dicta or fathom the wicked consequences which may flow from it . . . . To say or suppose, that a Free People can respect or will obey a decision so fraught with disastrous consequences to the People and their Liberties, is to dream of impossibilities.”

            http://www.hrcr.org/docs/US_Constitution/dscott4.html

            James Wyatt Whitehead V wrote:

            “No judge was going to just let 13 trillion dollars walk away free.”

            Not every justice was corrupt. Two Supreme Court Justices ruled against the majority, and provided us with their most passionate eloquent dissenting opinions.

            Justice Curtis:
            “To determine whether any free persons, descended from Africans held in slavery, were citizens of the United States under the Confederation, and consequently at the time of the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, it is only necessary to know whether any such persons were citizens of either of the States under the Confederation at the time of the adoption of the Constitution.”

            “Of this there can be no doubt. At the time of the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, all free native-born inhabitants of the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina, though descended from African slaves, were not only citizens of those States, but such of them as had the other necessary qualifications possessed the franchise of electors, on equal terms with other citizens.”

            https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/60/393/#tab-opinion-1964281

            How can one maintain that the words of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were never intended to apply to African Americans when in fact African Americans voted in five of the thirteen state at the time of ratification?

          • James Wyatt Whitehead V

            The south celebrated the Dred Scott decision. They thought they had won the final argument on slavery. President James Buchanan breathed a huge sigh of relief. He thought the slavery question was settled as well. I bet you didn’t know that Dred Scott was a Virginian. Born in Southampton County, the same place of birth for Nat Turner, “the original rock” of Chickamauga George Thomas, and Andrew Gardiner (President of the US Colony for Freed Slaves Liberia).

            You ought to read the Impending Crisis by Hinton Helper. A southerner who proved with statistics that slavery was doomed.
            https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/helper/helper.html

  3. Hi, Jim, I don’t know if the entire curriculum of an African-American history course should be devoted to uplifting stories, but I certainly believe that the examples you cited are very important to include, as is the broad theme of black agency and accomplishment. The leftists driving the African-American history course want to create an Oppression Narrative. These examples would be at least a partial antidote to what is inevitably coming.

    (One key figure that I would add to your list is Booker T. Washington.)

    Here’s the problem: The leftists behind this initiative aren’t remotely interested in telling uplifting stories of African-Americans surmounting prejudice and discrimination to accomplish great things. That would undermine the Oppression Narrative. It would suggest that African-Americans should cultivate traits like energy, initiative and drive rather than hopelessness, grievance,and resentment. The Oppression Narrative is the left’s path to power. Your suggestion, which, as I said, I whole-heartedly endorse, would negate the left’s path to power.

    • That is exactly what it is meant to do.

    • Mr. Bacon. Booker T. Washington is an Uncle Tom in today’s world. He will not be interpreted honestly. Even though he dealt with the race issues of the turn of the century in a realistic manner.

    • The left is within spitting distance of losing Asian-American support. Within 20 years they will lose Hispanic-American support. Whether they can keep the support of 90% of Black Americans is also in doubt. Ask any honest citizen in the inner city about defunding the police. See what they say. Saying stupid things like defunding the police is a real example of libtwit White privilege.

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  5. The first thing that comes to mind is that some white guy lecturing on how best to tell black history and urging the “dark” version needs to be accompanied by success stories also.

    I don’t think black folks have ever objected to the “optimistic” version of black history. Many, if not most of those stories HAVE been told and blacks are well aware of them. It’s the failure to tell the other “dark” part honestly and truthfully and some of them feel that what we’ve taught is the white guys version of black history and enough of that.

    I’m not being as critical with respect to you personally, as I’m sure you will take this. It’s the argument put forth that I’m criticsizing.

    Decades, generations after separate but equal and Jim Crow, we still force black folks to drive on highways named for pro-slavery historical figures. Ditto with schools, public places, military bases, and statues and memorials.

    Bottom Line: probably not a good idea to have white folks recommending what should be taught for black history. Blacks folks have very different views about it.

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  6. Your embedded bias as white men continues to show through your stated discomfort at what you, as white, and mostly conservative men, think the spin should be on teaching the history of African American slavery and history in the United States. Why not invite to this discussion a few African American historians or teachers here of all political persuasions (Left, Right, Moderate) to provide context and perspective in this matter. That there is an issue over why more success stories about slaves and descendants of slaves are not being provided in the history of slavery is just one indication that you are honestly not willing, prepared, or mentally open to looking hard at the face of slavery. As a descendant of American Indian tribal people, if I wished to have a full curriculum or understanding of a correct curriculum about American Indian slavery and history, along with well read non-natives, I would consult with American Indian tribal people and descendants of Indian slaves or Indians forced onto reservations. I would suggest that that consulting process would provide a more accurate and comprehensive viewpoint on that history and more support of historical facts. Each of us viewing the subject through our non-black, and embedded political or cultural bias cannot provide an adequate comprehensive viewpoint no matter how much we think of own viewpoint and study. If I was studying your family history, but invited no one from your family to the discussion, and only relied on my own chosen study and quotes to justify my viewpoint, would that be comprehensive or even accurate?
    If a true American viewpoint is a diverse viewpoint, then let’s strive for diversity, a wider and more genuine look at slavery, along with the successes of African Americans in our great nation’s history. In the study of history, shouldn’t we be willing to go where the factual history takes us?

    • We must strive to ensure a common national culture – a fundamental set of national agreements on what we are and strive to be as a people. That is the meaning of the melting pot. E Pluribus unum – one from many.

      Culture is different than politics. We can disagree on means – politics – but not on the goals in America’s founding documents. If we fundamentally disagree on goals then we don’t have a country. There are hundreds of historical examples.

      I believe that the cultural left has overplayed its hand. This Commission report is so clearly antl-cultural and so utterly pessimistic that it will draw a backlash that will drive culturally conservative, political progressives away. Who do the anticultural left think will teach this garbage? Chastened white teachers?

    • Mr. Abbate,
      “Your embedded bias as white men continues to show through your stated discomfort at what you, as white, and mostly conservative men, think the spin should be on teaching the history of African American slavery and history in the United States. “Why not invite to this discussion a few African American historians or teachers here of all political persuasions (Left, Right, Moderate) to provide context and perspective in this matter. “

      “Embedded bias”. Nicely woke. Your point is clearly that input is allowed exclusive from a closed class of “stakeholders”.

      From my assessment of the report including the extensive comments of the members of the Commission that the Commission was virtually all Black and had no conservative members. But that is what is up for review by the Board of Education.

      You posit that no input from other than Black persons in how this element of history is taught is appropriate. I would not agree with you relative to any course in the public schools, even if such courses were in this case to be taught exclusively to Black kids, and they are not.

      “Equity refers to fostering a barrier-free environment whereby by all students, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation/gender identity, pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, age, marital status, disability, or genetic information (Virginia Beach Schools)

      How would your recommended policy scale?

  7. Cavalier Commonwealth Virginia High School History textbook presents more black history than “His Excellency, Ralph Northam, Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia” and his crooked black history scam, will ever present. I have a copy and I used it as reference material to present black history to Virginia high school students for a quarter of a century. It is loaded with black history facts related to Virginia that are forgotten and unspoken now. It presented the facts in an Almanac style which I found to be useful and unbiased. You will pay a kings ransom to get a copy now.

    • Hopefully the next edition will have that picture of Ralph Northam in blackface standing next to his date in klan robes to illustrate how adults from the plantation elite behaved in the 1980s. Portrait of an asshat.

  8. J. Abbate, The time to invite African-American scholars to the table for discussion was a year ago when this task force was formed. If you look at the members of the Commission you will see that it was not fair and balanced. I did not see any prominent conservative Black voices on the Commission. I apologize if I overlooked anyone, but if there were one or two, I doubt if their views got into the final report.

  9. Don’t forget Jennie Dean of Prince William County. She followed the path of Booker T. Washington and built the Manassas School for Industrial Colored Youth. As a child she tended to wounded Confederate soldiers from the 2nd Battle of Manassas. As a full grown woman she built a church, a school, and a legacy as lifetime achievement. Jennie Dean met Frederick Douglas who dedicated the Manassas school, best friends with Booker T. Washington, and was received by Teddy Roosevelt in the Oval Office. The Manassas School had one hell of a football team for decades too. I had my students assist in the restoration of her grave in Catharpin, VA.

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  11. … and Davey Crockett didn’t surrender… My Lai didn’t happen… etc., etc.,

    • Helpful. Thanks Nancy.

      • Well then, why does the US insist that Japan continue to teach their students about the atrocities of their Korean and China campaigns?

        Guilt is a funny thing. Eventually, it always turns to blame.

        Should start with Huey Newton.

        • Evil acts are an essential part of history and must be a part of every nation’s instruction to its youth, lest we forget. One of my professors in college (and later a friend) was a taken prisoner by the Japanese and participated in the Bataan Death March. He recounted his experiences, and it was difficult to hear what was done to him. Yes, that needs to be remembered.

          Japan is now a friend and close ally. I would never disrespect their flag, national anthem or people. It’s appropriate for Japanese people to be proud of their history and heritage, in spite of the shortcomings of those in power from previous generations.

          The United States should also teach it’s history, warts and all. We too can be proud of our history and heritage, in spite of the shortcomings of those in power from previous generations. Disrespecting our flag, national anthem and people serves no beneficial purpose.

          • You just did exactly what I recommend for African American history – telling a story of the Bataan death march in the context of a survivor. Thank you.

        • What should start with Huey Newton? A founder of the Black Panthers, he was indicted for three killings resulting in one conviction and two hung juries. He was murdered in Oakland, California by a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. Nice story. Lot’s of hope for the future.

          • Don’t muddy the water with facts.

          • Well, you could start with the food banks and community services the Panthers put in place, and end with the evidence in the trial. The only two weapons recovered at the scene were the officer’s service weapons.

            Eyewitnesses placed the two officers at different ends of the scene. Newton and Frey got into a struggle and was shot in the abdomen, and the police account gets weird from there. After getting shot, he wrestle the gun from Frey and shot him. The other officer also fired his weapon. I think one of the problems is the lack of any ballistics evidence and that witnesses had the two officers shooting at Newton, who happened to be between them. That’s why juries 2 and 3 hung. Now ask yourself, “How many times does a prosecutor get 3 bites on the apple and still lose?”

            Ask the people in Missouri who Jesse James was, and you’ll not get the answer you might think

            The fact, to you DJ’s word, that you think he was guilty and that the Pathers were unsavory says a lot.

          • People just kept getting shot in Huey’s general vicinity including, finally, him. Pretty unlucky guy.

          • Yes, because police violence began and ended on the Pettis Bridge.

  12. To talk about Black-American history is to keep the melting pot frozen. The history should include all important contributors to a good U.S. society and should not emphasize race. It can mention race in passing or in pictures. I am fortunate that my Latino parents came to the U.S. when assimilation was the theme.
    According to the Britannica, Critical Race Theory (CRT) “is based on the view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color.” CRT cannot be beneficial to our country. I hope the Report, which Mr. Sherlock says incorporates CRT, is rejected.

    • Excellent analysis. And now, of course the racists have switched sides, but the victims are still the same, the disadvantaged classes of all colors, while the base motivations of the racists remain the same: greed, hate, power mongering and private advantage.

  13. Having read the Report, I am confused on one basic point, and it appears the authors are also. Should Black History be a part of American History or should it be separate? I can assure you that both assertions are in the Report with no clue as to which takes precedence. It makes a huge difference in how the Report is read and how it is implemented.

    • Both. The Commission wants it taught in American History at every level, in Virginia history and in a separate high school elective in African American history.

  14. James Wyatt Whitehead V

    I am eager to see the VDOE publish a curriculum framework with the revisions to American History and the new elective course. That will reveal if an honest presentation of history will carry past matriculation. Until then teachers are just going to make it up as they go along. Some will exceed the mandate and many will flounder.

    • Teachers, discounting perhaps my tenure as a teacher, are smart.

      If they have access to my suggestions for an approach (a big if), they can write their lessons plans within the framework I offered. They will look forward to teaching those lessons that way.

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  16. I think yours would be an excellent approach to teaching history if the goal of the Governor’s Commission and the Department of Education is to “leav[e] black children proud of their heritage and white children proud that America produced such men and women and determined to do better in their own lives”.

    However, I do not think building optimism about this country is their goal.

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