Texas High Schools Add African American Studies Course

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A new course about the history and culture of African Americans comes to Texas classrooms this fall. Dallas and Fort Worth ISDs are among those that will offer a statewide curriculum in African American Studies.

The State Board of Education approved the course as an elective for high school students back in April.

"We will have schools that will be for the first time offering African American Studies and I'm extremely excited about it," said Dallas-area state board member Aicha Davis.

Davis represents 1.7 million North Texans on the State Board of Education. She's in her first term on the state board and gets much of the credit for making the statewide elective course a reality.

Newspaper articles about the unanimous vote in April described it as "historic" with Davis showing "courage and willpower."

Davis' own experiences convinced her it needed to happen.

Students in the Dallas ISD where the course was created and debuted last year bolstered the case for it.

Akwete Tyehimba, owner of Pan-African Connection in Oak Cliff was also instrumental. Her store is alive with the history and culture students will now learn.

She joined a multicultural circle of experts that guided the curriculum - that starts before slavery.

"There have been a lot of myths and a lot of miseducation about African history," Tyehimba said. "So often, our children have been told that they don't have a history; they don't come from anywhere and that their history begins as slaves. Our first priority is to inform them that not only do they have a history but they have a great history, a history that they could be proud of."

"That's why I have so much respect for teachers. Teachers have power to change society for the better. And I think when we get teachers tools and courses like this, they can do what they need to do to start a foster that equity. And, more than anything like I said, I want students of African American background to learn more about themselves but I want other students to learn about that rich history," Davis said.

The Texas Education Agency says Texas is the fifth state in the country to offer a state-level African American Studies studies course for high school. And, it's the second ethnic studies course. A Mexican American studies elective was approved in 2018. Davis told The Dallas Morning News she now's working on a Native American Studies course as well.

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