Sen. Jesse Hamilton (236506)
Credit: NYS Senate

Former president of the School Board and District Leader Sen. Jesse Hamilton of District 42 in Brooklyn proposed a bill that would make it mandatory for New York State schools to incorporate Black history into their K-12 curriculum.

Hamilton believes that Black history, and the New Yorkers who have contributed to Black history, should be taught and celebrated in schools for more than just one month a year.

“From the women abolitionists who broke barriers in advocacy and helped end slavery, to the Harlem Renaissance whose literary and artistic dynamism we benefit from even today, to the pioneering achievements of Shirley Chisholm, who paved a path for future public servants of color, men and women alike, New York has an important history our young people should engage with,” said Hamilton.

He added that uplifting and teaching Black history in New York City schools will add to the Black national heritage as a whole.

The Senate bill, S. 5454, will be sponsored by Assemblywoman Diana Richardson of District 43 in Brooklyn. Before her election as Assembly member, Richardson was the director of Government Relations with Boys Town New York. She worked diligently to enhance the brand of Boys Town with her advocacy of at-risk youth and to secure safety and security for New York City’s most vulnerable youth.

Although she was unaware of the current status of Black history in the public school curriculum, Kiarah Williams, the mother of a 2-year-old, said she agrees that Black history should be taught all year.

“[Black history] is part of who we are as Americans,” said 30-year-old Williams. “A lot of the things Blacks did ignited what whites did, and are recognized for. I feel like our stories should be linked together in one curriculum.”

Hamilton believes the Black community has made huge contributions that structure today’s society and American history.

“Teaching Black history in K-12 will help expand young people’s knowledge on contributions Black people made and still make in getting this country to where it is now,” said Hamilton. “I believe the Black community has come very far from no voice at all, to making huge contributions and overcoming many setbacks, which is worth teaching. It is not enough to only talk of these contributions in just a month, [children will most] likely forget it afterward. Children need to learn, and appreciate, these contributions and achievements just as they learn and appreciate American history or global history.”

Hamilton added, “Teaching young people at an early age about the actual history of Black people can help reduce the many misconceptions surrounding Black and white people and race, and can reduce the stereotypes young people grow up adhering to.”