DCPS history curriculum does not do black history justice


Photo courtesy of The Roosevelt Review

Kennedy Whitby

Black history isn’t just about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., so why is it that they’re the only figures we regularly hear about in history classes? The DCPS curriculum does a horrible job of teaching the true extent of Black history.

Ever heard of the Rollin Sisters? I thought not. The Rollin sisters were five siblings born from freed Blacks into a wealthy family in Charleston in the mid-1800s. Father William Rollin wanted his children to be educated, so he sent the eldest, Frances, to school in Philadelphia with the Quakers. He also sent two other daughters to school in Boston, which ended up being the foundation for much of the success the sisters had.

Due to their educational statuses, the sisters were able to build strong relationships with prominent Republican figures, both Black and white, which helped them get their case against the South Carolina Constitution to court, which would enable women the right to vote. Although the legislature rejected the idea, this is still something important that should be taught in history classes: five intelligent Black female politicians who were respected by both races in a male-dominated field and finding major success.

The history curriculum spends so much time uplifting and praising slave owners like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, while leaving students clueless or uneducated on diverse cultural information. As a junior in high school, I can say that I’ve learned the same information on the civil rights movement and slavery since fifth grade. I’ve covered Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Frederick Douglas nearly every year, but haven’t learned much else about the huge range of important Black historical figures.

The DCPS curriculum continues to limit African Americans to just “slavery” and “the civil rights movement,” when we are so much more than that, with major achievements that tend to be left out as if they didn’t shape America as well. These include Josephine Baker, who was a spy in World War II, Madam CJ Walker, who was the first female self-made millionaire, and Katherine Johnson, who was behind the math that put the first man on the moon. But I have yet to hear these names in a classroom. I have yet to see these names in a textbook. And that’s an issue. This Black History Month, it is important to remember that Black history is American history and should be shared as such.