Starting next fall, high schools around the state will be able to offer African American Studies as an elective course, making Texas the first state to approve both that course and Mexican American Studies.

The Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) has approved standards for an African American Studies course for high school students to be offered beginning in the 2020-21 school year. The elective course was unanimously approved by the SBOE last month. Work has begun on the development of a curriculum from those standards so that the class will be available to Texas high school students this fall.

The Hermann Park Rotary Club Education Committee is made up of volunteers from the Texas Education Service Center Region 4. A group of over 20 Education Committee members worked with State School Board Member Lawrence Allen in providing amendments to the proposed document. Dr. Robert Ford and HCC Professor Gretchen Odion testified online in support of the course.

The Education Committee is excited about the opportunity to expand the narrative taught in Texas’ schools. The Education Committee recommends forming an Advisory Committee in HISD and Region 4 to assist school districts throughout the region.

For the class to be successful, the Education Committee believes addressing the following four areas is critical: 1. Teacher Professional Development; 2. Engaging Principals; 3. Recruiting Students; and 4. Identifying Appropriate Course Materials.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (NTHP) theme, “to tell the full American story,” is one of the many national initiatives that aligns with the new course. School districts throughout Region 4 should seek the help of subject matter experts in the area of African American Studies. The RCHP Education Committee is eager to help.

Throughout Region 4 there is local history that needs to be taught. African American history in Texas dates back almost 500 years to 1528 with the arrival of Esteban. The contributions of African Americans throughout those five centuries are acres of diamonds waiting to be discovered by a new generation of students.

“The course should not just be teaching dates and names but be more engaging by including the performing arts to bring this history to life,” says Naomi Carrier, RCHP Education Committee member. “African American history is American history. For too long it has been a footnote in our history books, and this course allows us to expand that footnote to a 1 credit elective for students,” says NTHP Texas Advisor Samuel Collins III

The Education Committee believes this course should be the spark that lights a fire of lifelong study for students. Individuals with an interest in African American studies should join our effort.