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James E. Bostic, a former Clemson board member and the first African American to earn a doctorate at the school, talks to vistors at the Calhoun family plot at Woodland Cemetery in Clemson, S.C. on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Michelle Liu) 

Researchers have identified more than 600 previously unmarked African American graves, some overbuilt by the marked graves of white people, dating back to the early 1800s

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Friends and family comfort Katie Wright, right, while she speaks briefly to news media near where the family says her son Daunte Wright, 20, was shot and killed by police Sunday, April 11, 2021, in Brooklyn Center, Minn. (Jeff Wheeler/Star Tribune via AP) 

Wright, a Black man, died after being shot by police in a Minneapolis suburb during a traffic stop and crashing his car several blocks away

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President Joe Biden has created a bipartisan commission to look at reforming the Supreme Court after politically divisive Trump appointments left the court skewed to the right; on the agenda will be adding term limits and additional justices

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As a mob fought police and vandalized the building Pence pleaded with acting defense secretatary to ‘Clear the Capitol’ while Schumer and Pelosi appealed to military leaders for help

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Sweeping reforms will increase accountability making it possible to prosecute police who kill people by using excessive force and fire officers. Republican Gov Larry Hogan sought to veto the changes

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The murder trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd's death has introduced viewers from around the world to a vast array of defense and prosecution tactics aimed at swaying the jury

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Reactions come in from around the world on the death of Prince Philip at age 99.

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In this image from video, prosecutor Jerry Blackwell questions Dr. Martin Tobin. (Court TV via AP, Pool) 

Dr. Martin Tobin took the stand today as part of an effort by prosecutors to establish that it was Chauvin's actions — not Floyd's drug use and underlying health conditions, as the defense contends

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Ebele Azikiwe, 12, poses for a photograph in Cherry Hill, N.J., Wednesday, March 24, 2021. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke) 

 

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Ebele Azikiwe was in the sixth grade last year when February came and it was time to learn about Black history again. She was, by then, familiar with the curriculum: Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and a discussion on slavery. Just like the year before, she said, and the year before that.

Then came George Floyd's death in May, and she wrote to the administration at her school in Cherry Hill, in New Jersey's Philadelphia suburbs, to ask for more than the same lessons.

“We learned about slavery, but did we go into the roots of slavery?” Ebele, 12, said in an interview.

“You learned about how they had to sail across, but did you learn about how they felt being tied down on those boats?"

Her letter went from the principal to the superintendent and then began to make headlines, leading to pledges to include fuller Black history courses.

In the months since Floyd's killing in Minneapolis, educators say they've heard a demand from students for fuller Black history lessons beyond what was already offered. Lawmakers and states have passed or begun implementing legislation calling for more inclusive instruction.

Changing the course

The previous generation of courses focused on cultural awareness. What schools found, according to Maurice Hall — the dean of the College of New Jersey's arts and communications school and a social justice scholar — was that students still had socioeconomic, cultural and racial blind spots.

Growing up with a majority point of view could mean thinking that the way a particular culture sees the world “is in fact the right way," Hall said.

Connecticut implemented a law in December requiring high schools to offer courses on Black and Latino studies. New Jersey, where learning standards already included some diversity education lessons, last month became the latest state to enact a law requiring school districts to incorporate instruction on diversity and inclusion.

A handful of other states have pending legislation that would make similar changes, including Washington and Virginia, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

students pushing black history momEbele Azikiwe, 12, right, cooks with her mother, Rume Joy Azikiwe-Oyeyemi, at home in Cherry Hill, N.J., Wednesday, March 24, 2021. Ebele testified in October at state Assembly hearing, lending her support to legislation requiring New Jersey's school districts to add diversity to curriculums. Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed the bill into law. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
The pandemic is partly credited with the response to Floyd's death while pinned by a white police officer, a confrontation that was caught on video and beamed into homes where people were isolating. The effect spilled over into schools, said Michael Conner, the superintendent in Middletown, Connecticut. Students held rallies and helped put race at the top of educators' consciousness.

African American and other non-European history tends to focus on how those societies were marginalized, while Europeans get portrayed as culturally competent, Conner said, something he calls a “deficit” context, as opposed to an “asset” context.

Like 12-year-old Ebele, he pointed to learning about the same handful of prominent African-American figures.

“When I look at my education, the only time I learned about Black history in school was during the month of February,” he said.

“I learned about my culture at the dining room table with my mother and grandmother.”

Districts adding diversity to their curricula now have to determine how to do it and what that looks like.

In New Jersey, the education department is required to come up with sample activities and resources for districts. And some schools there and elsewhere are adding books to the curriculum or examining them in new ways.

New books added

In Middletown, Dan Raucci, an English supervisor, pointed out how “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee has long been a 10th-grade staple. Students and teachers are discussing whether Atticus Finch, the white attorney who defends a Black man accused of raping a white woman, is a “hero of today, or of that time period?”

But the district has added new books, like Jason Reynolds’ ”The Boy in the Black Suit,” a novel that follows a Black teenager as he deals with grief.

The changes actually came before the Connecticut law's 2020 implementation, but last year's events underscored the imperative to revise the curriculum.

Social diversity trainings challenged

New Jersey's legislation calls for creating a welcoming environment “regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual and gender identities, mental and physical disabilities, and religious beliefs." It also seeks to examine unconscious bias, or implicit prejudice.

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That raised concerns among some right-leaning groups that the government was forcing students to adopt beliefs. Among those testifying against the bill was the conservative Family Policy Alliance of New Jersey.

“Students should learn to be respectful of others’ beliefs and backgrounds based upon their unique experiences and cultures," said Shawn Hyland, advocacy director, said in a statement last year.

“However, ‘diversity’ trainings in public schools are the very opposite of respect."

That criticism suggests conservative states — unlike liberal New Jersey and other states passing laws on curriculum diversity — may balk at such curricula. Already in Iowa, lawmakers have passed a bill to ban school diversity training, and in Idaho, lawmakers voted to kill a higher education budget over diversity programs in universities.

But in New Jersey, Ebele's mother, Rume Joy Azikiwe-Oyeyemi, 38, was surprised her daughter's efforts were met with such support. She said she had no idea that so much headway could be made in such a short time.

“As her mom I am beyond proud,” she said. “What's next?”


In this image from video, witness Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo testifies as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill presides Monday, April 5, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool) 

Dr. Bradford Langenfeld said that “any amount of time” a patient spends in cardiac arrest without immediate CPR decreases the chance of a good outcome. 

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