African American history should count as a social studies credit


Amelia Burton

African American history is considered an elective instead of a credit. Montgomery County Public Schools needs to change this.

In the Montgomery County Public Schools system, all students are required to take a history class as a credit to graduate. But African American history or Latin history are only offered as electives which means they don’t count as a credit.

While offering these classes is a good thing, the lack of a history credit defers students from taking them. From the moment we enter the school system we are taught European history. Everything from how Columbus “discovered” America to World Wars I and II and beyond.

Every year, students learn the same concept with a different interpretation or in more detail. The only time we learn about African Americans is during the topic of slavery or a little bit about Martin Luther King Jr. during February. But our history is so much more. Our history is full of culture, tradition, and skin tones other than white—especially in a county as diverse as MCPS.

African American students deserve to learn more about their history besides the fact that their ancestors came here forcibly in chains. Yes, it’s an important time period to talk about, but it’s not the only history we have. Students should be free to explore the numerous African American inventors, entrepreneurs, villages, tribes, cultures, foods, dialects, and everything else that exists outside the westernized lenses of Africa. And they should earn credit toward graduation for doing so. 

Europeans didn’t take slaves from Africa; they took mothers, fathers, children, doctors, nurses, engineers, and then made them into slaves. How can you expect anyone to feel any sense of pride for where they come from if they have no idea where they are from, were stripped of their culture, and forced to assimilate?

Having African American history as an elective is a slap in the face. It tells students, “You can learn that on your own time, but first learn everything about the people who enslaved, raped, and killed your ancestors.” African American history isn’t the only example of this discrepancy either. Not once in my 13 years of being in school did I get the chance to learn anything about Latin culture or Asian Culture without having any European association.

I’m lucky to be surrounded by so many races, opened up to a variety of ethnicities, and learn from teachers of different backgrounds who are proud and eager to share their cultures. But in reality, outside of this beautiful bubble of diversity found in Montgomery County (and especially at Watkins Mill High School), there are so many students who are struggling with their identity because they don’t know anything about their history. 

African American history, Latin history, Native American history, and many more should be counted as a history credit. Students should earn that credit for learning about either their history or one outside of their own. Regardless of what so many Americans believe, there’s more than just white history. 

The world does not revolve around westernized ideology—no matter how much the system makes it seem so. America is supposed to be a melting pot, but even with all of the cultures we have, subtle assimilation still exists. MCPS, you have the opportunity to begin to fix this disparity. It’s important that you do so. 

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