University of Missouri educators hope a newly launched center will help improve black history education.
The Carter Center aims to conduct research on black history education, enhance K-12 instruction and design curriculums, the Columbia Missourian reported . The center opening follows protests in 2015 by a black student activist group, Concerned Student 1950, against systemic racism at the university.
Missouri is one of more than 40 states that don’t require a black history portion in K-12 curriculum, so it’s not emphasized in teacher education programs or standardized tests. Black history courses are typically offered as electives in high schools.
“Teachers are well-meaning and they want to do well, but they’re under-resourced,” said LaGarrett King, the center’s founding director and an associate professor of social studies education. “What we are missing is a complete historical narrative about black people and their contributions to democracy and how institutionalized racism has persisted.”
Black history is often reduced to slavery, Reconstruction and civil rights, which can lead to blind spots in students’ understanding, King said.
“Black history is often closely connected to oppression,” he said. “The first time a child reads about a black historical character through the notions of enslavement, it erases a complex understanding about who is black.”
A better understanding of all Americans’ history will help create a more equitable society, the center’s founders said.
“We can’t continue to tell partial stories,” Ashley Woodson, the center’s associate director and an assistant professor of social studies education. “We can’t move the conversation on race forward if we misunderstand how freedom was defined by the government at a particular historical moment.”
In the fall of 2015, Concerned Student 1950 demanded university officials acknowledge the university’s historic discrimination against black students and work to correct such mistakes. The group sought more black faculty and increased investment in minority student retention
The university has responded by implementing administrative changes, expanding scholarships for low-income students and investing in public relations.