With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

NC Teacher: Don't Give In to GOP Politics of Fear

Growing up in Greensboro, where I still live and teach, I didn’t study the sit-ins that took place only a few miles from my public schools.

After my AP U.S. History exam, my mom asked whether, for the Civil Rights Movement prompt I had written about the protests at the Greensboro Woolworth, organized by four students from N.C. A&T. I hadn’t. I didn’t know anything about it.

College and graduate school remediated some of my glaring gaps, but I still recall the betrayal and shame of not having known something I should have known about the place where I lived.

Sure, I knew the word “sit-ins,” just as I knew the name Martin Luther King Jr., but I never studied the Civil Rights Movement in any way that led me to believe it directly connected to my life as a white kid, or to the Southern world I inhabited in the ‘80s and ‘90s, or to my AP U.S. History class with its lone student of color.

Not once in a classroom did I hear the Greensboro Massacre of 1979 mentioned. Not until graduate school did I learn about the Wilmington Massacre of 1898. My literature classes? A chorus of mostly dead white men: Twain, Fitzgerald, Shakespeare.

When we raise children without teaching them the basic facts of our country’s history and its legacy of racism, we betray them. Yet this school year, many teachers, especially those of us who teach literature or history, are wary of hostile scrutiny spurred by HB 324, which passed Aug. 26 in the N.C. Senate.

We’re also wary of the website set up by Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson where citizens can submit examples of alleged “indoctrination” by teachers.

Given this culture of fear, the safest, easiest thing for teachers to do is shy away from teaching more inclusive books or historical facts that have traditionally been omitted. Why subject ourselves to further controversy?

But to retreat from open, honest discussions about race and history is the last thing we should do. To retreat is to give into the fear mongering of this bill. Its goal is our silence.

Read entire article at Charlotte News & Observer