African American History in CPS Curriculum
In February we do have some special activities to celebrate the history and recognize notable figures. Media Center specialists use February as an opportunity to highlight Black authors. Schools may hold essay, poster, or door decoration contests to promote or highlight important or overlooked people and events in American history that had a specific impact on the Black community. This month, schools are also highlighting a notable Black figure in history each day over their morning announcements. Some figures include those at the national and state levels and some include those who made an impact in our local community. You can see the list they are using here.
While teachers certainly acknowledge and celebrate Black History Month, we want to make the point that Black history is not something to be only taught in February! Below are just some examples of how African American History is incorporated into our schools and curriculum all year long.
There is rarely a grade level in which African American History isn’t taught, but not necessarily in a “stand alone” way rather as an integral part of the larger story being told. No matter the grade level or curriculum focus, CPS articulates a scope and sequence that focuses on identity and “continuity and change” over time, in grades K-12. This allows students to explore the history of indigenous peoples and the importance and significance of diversity and the changes/effects (including negative) that are outcomes of power distribution, colonialism, imperialism, etc.
- 3rdgrade: Missouri History. The history of Native Americans who lived here before any settlers is a priority standard and the Missouri Compromise is used as a place to begin explaining the role of slavery played in the history of our state.
- 4th/5thgrade: US history. There is a switch underway. US history has previously been taught only in 5th grade and 4th was Missouri history. As we make the change to allow for more in-depth study of US history in elementary school by splitting that time between 4th and 5th grade, we are re-examining how and what materials we are using. Culture relevance is at the heart of making those informed decisions.
- 6thand 7th grade focus on early world history and the beauty and power of civilizations across the world. We purposefully dedicate two years to that world history study rather than the one year the state suggests, by embedding geography into our curriculum rather than teaching it as a separate middle school course. In 7th grade, while first semester is a more euro-centric look at world history 500 BC – 1500 AD; second semester is focused on the West African empires of Ghana, Mali, Songhai and East African Aksum and Great Zimbabwe…and their rich history before slave trade began and finishes with the American civilizations of Maya, Aztec, and Inca. The culminating experience in 7th grade is a look at how the 2-year study of world history (6/7 grades) brings us to Columbia today through the Black History Mobile Museum and African American Heritage Trail. Unfortunately, our maiden AAHT field trip was cancelled this spring due to COVID-19 and we will work to provide this next year for students who missed the opportunity.
- 8thgrade: US history. It begins with Three Worlds Collide: How slave trade and Columbian exchange brought together the Americas, Europe, and Africa. The study of ALL peoples of America is examined up through Reconstruction.
- 9thgrade: Our Civics focus allows for integration with current events and the role students play as a citizen in our democracy in dealing with the issues we face. This course explores how government is effectively developed and utilized by the people it serves, including an in-depth study of U.S. governmental principles and structures at the national, state, and local levels. Students examine the historical, geographical, cultural, civic, and economic dimensions of governmental theory and engage in inquiries such as how do the rights and responsibilities of individuals change within different governmental systems or how do American citizens ensure that their government remains responsive to their needs?
- 10thgrade: WH 1500 – explores how and why world civilizations have developed and changed within the modern era. Students examine the historical, geographical, cultural, civic, and economic dimensions of a diverse collection of global case studies, such as the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, Imperialism,, the World Wars, etc., and engage in inquiries such as why do global conflicts occur and how are they resolved or how should the world address the challenges of the 21st century?
- 11thgrade: US history part 2. Our focus picks up at Reconstruction and exams the impact of it and expansionism on all Americans and ends with the study of the Civil Rights Era and Modern America. Students examine the historical, geographical, cultural, civic, and economic dimensions of a variety of case studies ranging from Reconstruction to major contemporary events in America. Students will frequently read, write, and collaborate as a means of historical inquiry. Open-ended questions are often posed to have students think deeply about the content, and to consider a variety of possibilities.
Additionally, we offer topic focused electives at the high school level, such as: African American Studies, Advanced African American Studies, Classical Ideas and World Religions, The Modern United States of America, American Popular Culture, Contemporary Issues in Science and Society and more.