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Delaware Senate Democrats

Senate Sends Bill Establishing Black History Education In Delaware Schools To Gov. John Carney

May 20, 2021

DOVER – The Delaware State Senate on Thursday passed legislation that will ensure a more complete and holistic history of Black people is taught in the First State’s district and charter schools.

Sponsored by Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker and Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman in March, House Bill 198 would require each school district and charter school serving students in Kindergarten through 12th grade to provide curricula on Black history beginning in the 2022-23 academic year.

While schools currently dedicate lessons to the struggles and achievements of Black Americans during Black History Month each year, the lessons are too often limited to those four weeks and not contextualized into the entire story of American history.

The lessons encouraged by HB 198 would be used to educate all students on the Black experience in the United States and examine the ramifications of prejudice, racism, and intolerance in a broader and more thorough context.

“An accurate history of our nation and its people must make more than passing references to Black Americans and include a full account of our contributions to this country and its culture, well beyond the context of our subjugation,” said. Sen. Lockman, D-Wilmington.

“Black people have been here from the very beginning,” she said. “Embracing our full history and sharing it with our young people will give them an opportunity to understand the interwoven narratives of all our struggles and triumphs, as painful and ideologically contradictory as they may sometimes feel.”

Under HB 198, the schools’ curricula would rely heavily on primary sourcing to receive a true perspective of the Black experience. Curricula would include:

  • The history and culture of Black people prior to the African and Black Diaspora, including contributions to science, art, and literature.
  • The significance of enslavement in the development of the American economy.
  • The relationship between white supremacy, racism, and American slavery.
  • The central role racism played in the Civil War.
  • How the tragedy of enslavement was perpetuated through segregation and federal, state and local laws.
  • The contributions of Black people to American life, history, literature, the economy, politics and culture.
  • The socio-economic struggle Black people endured, and continue to experience, in working 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.

“Black history is American history, and if it is not taught, it can easily be forgotten. When teaching the history of our nation, the achievements, challenges, contributions, struggles and triumphs of Black people should not be segregated, but be incorporated into the American story, just as they unfolded in history,” said Rep. Sherry Dorsey Walker, the lead sponsor of HB 198. “I am grateful to the support of my colleagues, but especially to the young people who took a leadership role in advocating for and advancing this important piece of legislation. I look forward to Governor Carney signing it into law so that future generations gain a fuller understanding of Black history.”

The bill would require curricula to recognize the impact of racial and historical trauma, while engaging students about the roles and responsibilities of all citizens to combat racism, inequality and discrimination through various means, such as protest, reform and celebration. The curricula also would teach about historical discrimination in Delaware, be designed to develop students’ respect for cultural and racial diversity, and provide opportunities for students to discuss and uplift the Black experience.

The Department of Education would consult with groups such as the NAACP, Africana studies programs at Delaware State University and University of Delaware, Delaware Heritage Commission, Delaware Black Student Coalition, Metropolitan Wilmington Urban League and Eastern Shore AFRAM in Seaford in developing resources to assist schools with crafting their curricula.

Passed by the House in April, HB 198 now heads to Gov. John Carney for his signature.