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Part of larger battle over ethnic studies

  • For many years, marginalized communities have fought to determine how they tell and learn about their own history.
  • Florida in 1994 became the first state to pass a law mandating the teaching of African American history in schools.
  • Now, with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis at the helm, the state has been at the forefront of efforts to restrict lessons about race and racism in classrooms.
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In 1967, young people across Philadelphia took to the streets to protest the district’s treatment of Black students. Among their demands: functioning classrooms, more Black educators and an end to a system that funneled them into menial jobs.

The youth also asked for something that remains controversial to this day: the inclusion of African American studies in school.

The protest ended violently. Hundreds of Philadelphia police officers wielding clubs attacked the student activists. Nearly two dozen people were seriously injured, and dozens more were arrested. Fast-forward to the early 2000s, when Philadelphia became the first major city to make African American studies a graduation requirement.

Today, efforts to bring ethnic studies into schools are nearly as fraught as they were more than half a century ago, seen by critics as a form of radical indoctrination and by proponents as a long-overdue lifeline that can significantly improve students’ and society’s outcomes.

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