African American and Latino studies will be a required part of the public school curriculum in Connecticut by 2022 under a bill unanimously approved by the Senate Thursday night, reports the Hartford Courant.
The measure, which cleared the House of Representatives earlier this month, now heads to Gov. Ned Lamont for consideration. In an emotional speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Douglas McCrory, a Democrat from Hartford, spoke of the need for a more inclusive history curriculum. He invoked Nipsey Hussle, the California rapper and community activist who was shot to death in March, and recited a few lyrics from Jay Z’s “Legacy.”
Too often, McCrory said, schools highlight the legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. and Frederick Douglas, but ignore the achievements of lesser-known figures such as Ida B. Wells, an investigative journalist who helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Robert Reed Church, a millionaire from Memphis who financed the successful campaigns of five African American congressmen during Reconstruction.
“We don’t learn these stories,” said McCrory, who has worked as an educator for more than two decades. “We don’t talk about them, they’re not part of the things we study…it’s a shame.” The bill is partly the product of advocacy from hundreds of high school students across Connecticut, dozens of whom testified before the legislature’s education committee in March. Many of them said their study of the African American experience focused mainly on slavery and not the achievements of Black Americans.
“They hadn’t seen themselves, they hadn’t seen their stories,” McCrory said of the students. “I hadn’t seen my stories and I hadn’t seen my mother’s and my father’s and my grandparents’ stories.” He continued, “It’s high time that we as leaders provide every student with the opportunity to learn from each other. This curriculum will not just benefit African American and Latino people but all our students…we need a curriculum where every child can learn each other’s history.” The bill received bipartisan support. “There’s an old saying: if we forget history we’re doomed to repeat it,” said Sen. Eric Berthel, R-Watertown. “As Americans, regardless of our nationality, regardless of our race, we have an obligation to not forget history.”