Black History Month: Why We’re Defending African American History

February 2, 2023 | National

This Black History Month, Children’s Defense Fund honors and commemorates the trailblazers before us by protecting and teaching their stories. We believe a learning environment where students see themselves in lessons is critical in the development of children and youth. CDF President and CEO Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson echoes it best in a recent MSNBC news interview: “What we know is that students who have culturally relevant pedagogies—that have access to accurate history—have a better understanding of society and, frankly, are better citizens to be engaged in the franchise of democracy.”

I didn’t understand until recently why my parents taught me African American History as if they were drill sergeants. Like learning times tables, it was all about repetition, repetition, repetition. While driving home from school, my mom would look at me through the rear-view mirror and ask a simple question, such as, “Who was Sojourner Truth?” She’d repeatedly ask the same question on different days until she knew I could hold my head up with pride and answer.

Last month, the actions of Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis affirmed that what my parents did was crucial in protecting my history. With Gov. DeSantis’ recent Stop W.O.K.E. Act, set to ban AP African American History in Florida’s schools, he has opened the door for attacks on democracy and the education of America’s children and youth.

To defend against these attacks, this Black History Month, CDF celebrates our CDF Freedom Schools® program and its Integrated Reading Curriculum (IRC).

The CDF Freedom Schools program provides K–12 scholars with rich, culturally relevant teaching and high-quality books that deepen scholars’ understanding of themselves and all they have in common with others in a multiracial, multicultural democratic society. The CDF Freedom Schools program executes this vision by providing five essential components as part of its summer programming:

  • High quality academic enrichment
  • Parent and family development
  • Civic engagement and social action
  • Intergenerational servant leadership development
  • Nutrition, health, and mental health

Our Ella Baker Trainers (EBTs) have witnessed first-hand in the classroom how the CDF Freedom Schools program and the IRC work. Click here to learn what the IRC has meant to our EBTs and their scholars.

While I am beyond grateful for the lessons my parents taught me, I know that all children should have access to a representative education in the classroom. That’s why the CDF Freedom Schools program will continue to ensure access to accurate and culturally relevant history in schools and help to build a nation where marginalized children flourish, leaders prioritize their well-being, and communities wield the power to ensure they thrive.