By Maleika Stewart
The National Association of Black Journalists hosted a panel about race and education during the 2023 convention in Birmingham. The ‘Battle Over Black History’ panel discussed the correlation between the erasure of Black American history and educational politics.
“It’s been going on since the very beginning, there’s been this tug of war, about what you know, how America came to be and what it stands for and who belongs here.” said Vanessa Williams, Deputy National Politics Editor at The Washington Post.
The panel: Andra Gillespie Political Science Professor of Emory University, Senior Politics reporter at Axios Eugene Scott, Dr. Tondra Loder Jackson Education and History Professor at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Vanessa Williams Deputy National Politics Editor at The Washington Post, and Executive Director of the African American Civil Rights Heritage Sites Consortium Reverend Lukata Mjumbe.
To preserve the true history of America, the panelists discussed the importance of having vocal Black journalists so that Black Americans’ stories are told.
“It should not be a surprise, if any surprise when the media cannot tell the story of America when the media doesn’t look like America,” said Scott. “And that’s what happened in 2008 and 2012. And quite frankly, that’s what’s happening right now”.
They spoke about the recent changes in curriculum standards throughout the United States adding that the standards in question have amplified the struggle for Black Americans to share their ancestral stories. As part of their discussion, panelists predicted that if Black history continued to be altered, Black experiences would be erased entirely.
Nikole Hannah-Jones recalled the aftermath of releasing her ‘1619 Project” in which she explored the truths of America’s history.
“… If we were willing to grapple with the fact that slavery is as foundational to America as anything can be and that slavery continues to shape our modern reality, my project wouldn’t have had to exist in the first place,” she said.
Nikole Hannah-Jones did not hold back in responding to attacks on her 1619 project, which some conservative-run states want to ban from school curriculums.
“… You don’t have a right to say what should be taught,” she said. “That’s why we have professional educators.”