U.S. Sen. Cory (Booker Edwin J. Torres/Governor’s Office)

U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced the Senate companion to Representative Jamaal Bowman’s (D-NY-16) African American History Act. This legislation provides important resources to strengthen opportunities to educate the American public about the richness and complexity of African American history and the impacts racism, white supremacy, and the struggle for justice have had on the fabric of America.  

“The story of Black people in America is inextricably linked to the story of America. This story must be reckoned with so that we can honestly reflect upon our nation’s past moral wrongs and the long and ongoing quest for justice that has been undertaken by Black Americans,” said Booker. “As we begin Black History Month, I am proud to introduce this legislation that will invest in initiatives to make African American history education programs more accessible to the public, help educators incorporate these programs into their curriculum, and develop additional resources focused on Black History for students and families to engage with.” 

“It is our moral imperative to tell the truth about our past to finally reconcile with this nation’s history of racism and white nationalism, and our legislation will serve as a vital component in our fight to do just that,” said Bowman. “The moment we are in requires of us a clear-eyed vision to ensure that not just our children but people of all ages, have access to resources and education that accurately recount African American history. Senator Booker and I’s legislation invests $10 million over 5 years to support African American history education programs that will be available for students, parents, and teachers. As a Black man and an educator, I cannot make clear enough how important it is to the success of our democracy for us to come to a collective understanding and agreement that we must take our commitment to learn from our past seriously. From the moment Africans were forcefully brought to the Americas as enslaved peoples and the segregation of our society to the economic and agricultural redlining of entire Black communities and the efforts to suppress our vote, it is on us to tell the truth about our entire history. I urge our colleagues to support this legislation and join us in using truth to overcome lies.”

Booker and Bowman’s legislation invests $10 million over 5 years in the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) to support African American history education programs that are voluntarily available for students, parents, and educators. 

This bill will help the NMAAHC expand and improve upon their work in a variety of ways, including:

·        Developing and maintaining a variety of accessible resources to promote an understanding of African American history. This includes a collection of digital content, housed on the NMAAHC website, to assist educators, students, and families across the country in teaching about and engaging with African American history

·        Engaging with the public through programming, resources, and social media to increase awareness of African American history through a social justice and anti-bias lens

·        Convening experts and creating and disseminating scholarly work

·        Translating new and existing NMAAHC work into multiple languages

Further, the bill supports the NMAAHC’s work to increase national capacity for African American history education, including:

·        developing and disseminating high quality pedagogy related to teaching African American history

·        providing opportunities for Professional Development for early childhood, elementary, and secondary teachers

·        designing and implementing a teacher fellowship program

·        engaging with local and state leaders interested in incorporating these resources in curricula

“Let’s start with a basic fact: You cannot understand American history without knowing African American history,” said Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers. “Some people are making this a wedge issue – even bullying teachers and trying to stop us from teaching students accurate history. This bill will make sure every student learns about the history and contributions of African Americans throughout the years. And every educator should have the training and tools they need to engage and teach African American history.”

The Original Co-sponsors of this legislation in the Senate include Senators: Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Chris Murphy (D-CT).

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