The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is in the process of developing a comprehensive Black studies curriculum for schools supported by School Chancellor David Banks and Mayor Eric Adams. The goal is to implement a pilot program ideally by the fall of 2023.

The DOE introduced similar curricula focused on Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) history and heritage in fall 2022, that was lauded by education groups and lawmakers, and  LGBTQ social studies coursework back in 2021. 

Banks called attention to the coming Black studies pilot program at the Central Family Life Center (CFLC) 18th Annual Staten Island Black History Town Hall meeting during Black History Month this February. “For these young people to become all that they really can be, they must have a much deeper understanding of their own history,” said Banks at the town hall. 

“We had folks from the community pushing to say we need that,” he continued. “When you have a deeper understanding about who everybody is and the commonality between all of us, that every one of us has fought, bled, died, and sacrificed to help to build this nation and have contributed to this nation, then you have a deeper respect. That only comes from knowledge.” 

He added that the Black studies curriculum will include civil rights figures and feature African history that preceded the trans-Atlantic slave trade. “Your story started before slavery,” said Banks. 

Chief of Staff for Teaching and Learning Hewetté Moore said that the Black studies program has had the “generous support” of city council.

The program’s development is due largely to the Education Equity Action Plan Coalition (EEAPC), which is a group of education advocates and organizations like United Way of New York City (UWNYC), Eagle Academy Foundation (EAF), Black Edfluencers United (BE-U), Association of Black Educators of New York (ABENY), the Black Education Research Collective (BERC), and city council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus (BLAC).

“It’s really important that we make sure that we are honoring the either misrepresented or absent voices from this work,” said Moore. “So in that really being sure that all students that identify with African American history and African diaspora have a place in this conversation in their classroom and in their instructional experience.”

Moore said that the program was a gap in learning that the DOE had identified years ago and is not necessarily a response to the larger nationwide struggle to preserve Black history in classrooms in Republican-leaning states happening currently.

The DOE said that since the program is still in the works, there’s no set numbers on funding or which schools will be included yet.

Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about politics for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting:

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