Gov. Northam announces launch of African American history course for 16 school divisions

Virginia News

FILE – In this Feb. 2, 2019 file photo, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, left, gestures as his wife, Pam, listens during a news conference in the Governors Mansion at the Capitol in Richmond, Va. A law firm has completed its investigation into how a racist photo appeared on a yearbook page for Northam. Eastern Virginia Medical School said in a statement Tuesday, May 21 that the findings of the investigation will be announced at a press conference on Wednesday, May 22. Northam’s profile in the 1984 yearbook includes a photo of a man in blackface standing next to someone in Ku Klux Klan clothing. Northam denies being in the photo, which nearly ended his political career in February. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

RICHMOND (WAVY) – On Wednesday, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that students in 16 Virginia school divisions will be able to increase their understanding of African American history by participating in a new high school-level elective course this academic year.

On Aug. 24, Northam directed the Virginia Department of Education to collaborate with Virtual Virginia, WHRO Public Media, and committees of history teachers, historians, and history professors to develop a new African American history course for high school students.

The governor said in a press release the course introduces students to key concepts in African American history, from early beginnings in Africa through the transatlantic slave trade, the Civil War, Emancipation, Reconstruction, the Civil Rights era, and to the present.

The students are set to learn about African American voices and their contributions to the story of Virginia and America.

The following 16 school divisions will offer the course this 2020-2021 school year:

  • Alleghany County
  • Amherst County
  • Arlington County
  • Carroll County
  • Charlottesville
  • Chesterfield County
  • Covington
  • Franklin County
  • Henrico County
  • Henry County
  • Loudoun County
  • Norfolk
  • Portsmouth
  • Prince William County
  • Suffolk
  • Winchester

Members of Northam’s Commission on African-American History Education in the commonwealth provided input and guidance during the development process.

Commission members from Norfolk State University, Old Dominion University, University of Richmond, and Virginia Commonwealth University assisted with in-depth reviews of the proposed content, the Governor’s office said.

“Black history is American history, but for too long, the story we have told was insufficient and inadequate,” said Northam. “The introduction of this groundbreaking course is a first step toward our shared goal of ensuring all Virginia students have a fuller, more accurate understanding of our history, and can draw important connections from those past events to our present day.”

Educators presenting the course will receive professional development and support throughout the year and the training is set to focus on building content capacity, developing a deeper knowledge of African American history, strengthening culturally responsive instructional practices, and the use of anti-biased/anti-racist education practices.

Teachers will also work with the development of resources and materials for future use as the course expands to additional school divisions.


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