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Tennessee House passes bill requiring Black history be taught to 5th - 8th graders

Published: Apr. 8, 2022 at 7:54 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A Tennessee bill that would require students in grades five through eight to learn about Black history and culture passed the House, Thursday.

HB 2106 passed with an 80 - 2 vote.

It requires the State Board of Education to study and implement a course of instruction for students in 5th through 8th grades to include curricula designed to educate students in Black history and culture.

It also includes multicultural diversity in curricula for students in kindergarten through the 12th grade.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Yusuf Hakeem - (D) Chattanooga, said in 2023 the Board of Education will look at current social studies books to decide what to add. However, the bill would not be implemented until 2025.

”I think the community in general, the broader community, it will give them and understanding that yes, there is value and worth that African Americans have made to this country, to this state and to the world,” Hakeem said.

There was no direct opposition on the House Floor, however Rep. Andrew Farmer - (R) Sevierville, asked this question:

“Are these not issues and topics already being taught in our schools, and if so, why do we need this legislation?”

Rep. Hakeem emphasized that teaching Black history in Tennessee is currently not required. HB 2106 would make it a law, and he wants to focus specifically on Tennessee Black history.

He says the course of study could include Black History figures like Samson Keeble, the first African-American legislator in Tennessee and Judge Bernice Donald, the first female African-American judge in the state. Judge Donald was also the first female African-American bankruptcy judge in the nation.

Renee Smith, a grandmother of two students in Tennessee Public Schools says at a time when Black History is being banned from being taught in schools across the country, she thinks this legislation is necessary.

”I really feel like they should teach it. Students should know their history, our history,” Smith said.

The bill passed with bi-partisan support in the House, and now goes on to the State Senate.

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