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.

The "Critical Race Theory" Ban Makes Teaching Black History Illegal in Tennessee

On my first day of classes at the University of Tennessee at Martin recently, I told all three of my American History Survey classes that I would be in violation of a newly enacted Tennessee “education” law were I teaching the same history in K-12 schools that I would be teaching them over the course of the coming semester.   

This past spring, Governor Bill Lee signed into law the anti-“Critical Race Theory” (CRT) Law.  Prior to the appearance of a flurry of anti-CRT bills in more than two dozen states this past spring, few Americans had ever heard of CRT, and outside of law schools, it’s rarely taught, and taught not all in K-12.

Suddenly in this past year, however, in one of those patently Koch-type astroturfings, our conservative media and politicians came all ablaze with the discovery that children were being indoctrinated with this pernicious theory in K-12 schools.   

In Tennessee, our new law first makes it illegal for any public K-12 school to teach that one race is inherently superior to another; that people are inherently privileged or racist, etc., because of their race or sex; or that people’s moral character is determined by race or sex. 

While we should be glad that Tennessee is finally outlawing the teaching of racial superiority in any form, our legislature should have passed this part of its legislation 60 years ago, when it would have counted for something.

Right up into the 1960s public schools in Tennessee were segregated. Whites in Tennessee openly and proudly characterized themselves as superior, even as they characterized Black people as lacking in morality, as being lazy, irresponsible, criminal, over-sexed, and as being intellectually inferior.   

But now, long after slavery and segregation’s overt white supremacy has been closeted, only now does our legislature decide that it must condemn the teaching of racial superiority.

Read entire article at Nashville Tennessean