WS/FCS African American History Course

Barbara Burke, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools board vice-chair, raises her hand as the sole board member to vote for a mandatory African American history course for the school district on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019 at the WS/FCS Education Building in Winston-Salem, N.C. After the vote, the board unanimously approved an infusion program recommended by WS/FCS Superintendent Angela P. Hairston. (Winston-Salem Journal/Allison Lee Isley) 20191023w_nws_board

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education voted down Tuesday night a mandatory African American history course for the school district.

Barbara Burke, the vice-chairwoman of the school board, was the sole supporter for the course, with seven members voting "no." School board member Marilyn Parker was not present.

After the vote, the board unanimously approved an infusion program recommended by WS/FCS Superintendent Angela P. Hairston.

Hairston's recommendations include four courses as electives for students in every high school - African American Studies, Latin American Studies, American Indian Studies and Ethnic Literature. Each course would be worth one full credit and have standard and honors course options.

Advocates of a mandatory African American history course showed up in full force, helping to nearly fill the auditorium in the Education Building on Bethania Station Road in Winston-Salem.

Of the nearly 28 people who spoke during the public sessions, the majority of them backed the mandatory course.

“I want to bring a little truth serum to this discussion around an African American studies class,” Miranda Jones of Local Organizing Committee said to the board prior to the vote. “This will not be easy, much like being black in Winston-Salem or trying to teach under Euroscentic curriculum isn’t easy. The truth is, most of my people don’t think we’ll get this class, just like most of us never thought we’d live to see a black president, just like most of us thought we’d never see a black woman chair….”

Winston-Salem City Council Member D.D. Adams said she attended segregated schools from 1960 to 1971 and that forced segregation occurred the summer before her senior year.

“During my 12 years of public education, I don’t remember anyone really teaching me about African American history,” Adams said. “Let that sink in for a moment. I remember North Carolina state history. I remember U.S. history, and I remember world history, but not African American history….My African American history was the history my mom and my dad gave me.”

She said that African American children need to know their history, “not later, but now.”

Lillian Podlog of Hate Out of Winston said she was there as a community member.

She applauded Hairston for listening to the community, but said it is not an either or question in terms of the mandatory class and Hairston’s recommendations.

“There is no way that we can have an infusion curriculum and then there is not time for students to set aside and to learn black history,” Podlog said.

After the vote, some people rushed out of the meeting, voicing their disappointment.

JoAnne Allen, said she supports a mandatory course.

“Infusion is fine for the lower grades, but we need something mandatory to go along with it,” Allen said. “If our children can learn world civilization and all this U.S. history and all that, what’s the difference between that and learning black history? There is no difference.”

Jones said she was not shocked by the vote because there were indicators of the outcome all along. "It's clear that we will just actively campaign against them except for Burke," she said.

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