In a Month Meant to Celebrate Black History, Some on the Right Are Trying to Erase It

This Black History Month we celebrate the contributions of Black artists, scientists, writers, makers, and leaders.

We celebrate the strength and brilliance of Black people, who’ve persevered through 400 years of white supremacy and systemic racism, through slavery, Jim Crow, over-policing, and mass incarceration.

Unfortunately, this month we also have to call out the growing movement to censor the teaching of Black history and the celebration of Black culture in the classroom and beyond. Here are five ways that some politicians on the right are trying to erase Black history.

Black history month
  1. Banning books by and about Black people

    Between 2021 and 2022, more than 1600 books about gender or race were banned in more than 130 school districts, impacting about 4 million students at 5,000 schools nationwide. One district in Pennsylvania even banned two children’s books about Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr.!

    Studies have shown that book banning has been on the rise in recent years—and books by and about Black people have been increasingly targeted. More than 300 books written by predominantly Black authors about Black history, culture, or their experiences as Black people were banned just last year.

    So you know what to do: Organize, petition local school boards and, of course, start buying, reading, and sharing those banned books today!

  2. Lying about critical race theory (CRT)

    Critical race theory is a way to study and understand racism in America. It's a long-overdue correction to the whitewashed history taught in most American schools. But here’s the thing—it’s a college-level subject that’s rarely if ever taught in K-12 classrooms. So, why is there a movement to ban it from being taught or even mentioned in, you guessed it, K-12 classrooms?

    Proponents of these bans probably have almost no idea themselves what CRT is. What they really want is to ensure that students hear as little as possible about racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice. Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1619 Project (in which she and other journalists, historians, and artists brilliantly examine four centuries of Black experience in America), explains what the bans are really about:

    “What they’re really banning is the teaching of a more accurate accounting of history that examines racism…in our country…[T]hese laws are really memory laws where they’re trying to shape our memory by erasing it.”

  3. Restricting what teachers can say about racism in the classroom

    Texas is one of an increasing number of states that have passed laws limiting what teachers can say about Black history and racism. (If anyone needs correcting for what’s taught about racism, it’s Texas. Not too long ago, textbooks used across Texas schools referred to slaves as “workers.” Other Texas textbooks had downplayed the role of slavery in the Civil War and the impact of Jim Crow.)

    The Texas law bans teaching about critical race theory AND the 1619 Project, and dictates that if teachers talk about current events, they must “give deference to both sides”—all of which will have a chilling effect on classroom discussions, as well as students’ understanding of what it means to be Black in America.

    The Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers expressed outrage at this censorship and rightly defended teachers’ ability to “provide balanced conversations with students on controversial issues.”

  4. Blocking an AP course in African American studies

    The Florida Department of Education recently decided that a new Advanced Placement (AP) course on African American studies would not be offered in state high schools.

    The department absurdly claimed that the college-level course—which comprehensively surveys Black history and culture—violates Florida law, is not “historically accurate,” and “lacks educational value.” Perhaps the law it violates is Florida’s “Stop Woke Act,” which essentially prohibits Florida schools and businesses from making white people feel uncomfortable about all the racism perpetrated by white people?

    Not long after this decision, the College Board, which oversees AP courses, announced that it was stripping much of the subject matter that conservative critics had objected to. No more critical race theory and discussions of Black Lives Matter. No more books about the Black LGBTQ+ experience. In this case, erasing history proved all too easy.

  5. Banning implicit-bias training

    The goal of implicit-bias training is to help people understand the biases they don’t even know they have, and so put an end to discriminatory or racist behavior.

    The good news: President Biden rescinded the previous president’s ban on implicit-bias training, “reaffirming,” in the president’s words, “the federal government’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and accessibility…Unity and healing must begin with understanding and truth, not ignorance and lies.”

    The bad news: Florida’s Stop Woke Act, no surprise!, bans implicit bias training at the state level. A judge blocked that part of the law from taking effect, but other states, like Tennessee, are preparing similar legislation.

Celebrate and Preserve Black History!

Politicians are clearly trying to erase Black history and culture, but we won’t let them. Not this month, not ever.

First, let’s celebrate Black History Month by watching the 1619 Project docuseries. And don’t forget to buy and read these banned books by Black authors!

Finally, we need to do everything we can to fight Florida’s Stop Woke Act.