Erasing Our History: A Hateful Agenda
“Without our history, we are nothing. Without teaching our youth where we come from, how can we move forward?”
---Jamiyah Brown, Hillcrest High School, Tuscaloosa County, Alabama
Erasing the history of a people is a form of genocide. A high school in Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, held a Black History Month program in February 2023 and forbade any discussion of slavery or the Civil Rights Movement. The American Right-wing has labeled almost all Black History as “Critical Race Theory” or “CRT,” which makes many on the Right “uncomfortable” because they feel their Whiteness is being, well, criticized.
The principal of Hillcrest High School, in Tuscaloosa County, directly banned any talk of anything that happened before 1970 because talk of the battle against racism would make White students “uncomfortable.” The principal said to, instead, focus on Beyoncé and contemporary figures.
Whoa! Nothing before 1970! I was born before 1970! I remember seeing news coverage of Dr. Martin Luther King’s funeral in 1968, when I was in kindergarten. I was born even before 1964, when the Voting Rights Act gave my parents and grandparents, who were all still living, the right to vote anywhere they might reside in the United States. Dozens of my kinfolk who had lived under Jim Crow segregation and sharecropping were still alive into the 1990s, and some are still here in 2023.
Taking this personally, just for the sake of argument, if a biography about me started in 1970, I would appear as a third grader at a nearly all-white school (There was a total of seven Black students in the school of 600. That seven included me and two of my siblings) in a middle-class neighborhood. With everything prior to 1970 omitted, even how I landed in this very White environment would be erased; how my father had to leave Chicago in order to get engineering jobs; how, in 1968, he rescued his mother-in-law from her Chicago neighborhood that was being allowed to burn down in the name of urban renewal and brought her to live with us—all that would be erased.
Many students, both Black and White, at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa walked out of school in protest on February 9. It made national news, as it should have. The leader of the walk out, Jamiyah Brown, was correct in stating that our history could not be explained without mention of slavery. Even events in Alabama’s recent history, like the Birmingham Church bombings (1964), the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955) were being omitted from the school’s program on Black History.
Some voices in the Black community are lauding the Right’s (especially Florida governor De Santis’) targeting of Black History. They say “we should teach our own children our history,” and that part is correct, but what they miss is that with Black history purged from public schools, many non-Black students will never learn a more complete real history of the United States. They will be taught about an America where Black and Native people just appear in 1970, or 2000 or whenever, with no history or background of how we got to be where we are, still fighting for our own safety and empowerment.
As for Jamiyah Brown, the leader of the protest, who said on February 22, after the Black History Program had been completed, was pleased with the cultural expressions of music and dance (she led the school dance team Las Amigas), but without the mentioning of slavery, something was missing. By the way, Tuscaloosa means “Black Warrior” in Choctaw. Ms. Brown has gotten off to a good start as a Tusca Loosa.
“Students Walk Out After Told to Limit Black History Program,” APNews, February 9, 2023.
“What This Alabama’s School’s Black History Production Looked Like After a Student Walkout,” by Rebecca Griesbach, al.com, February 23, 2023.