- The Washington Times - Friday, December 3, 2004

Maryland education officials are ready to implement a new, year-round curriculum that will offer black history lessons in a variety of classes.

Students in social studies classes, for instance, will analyze the “Great Migration” of the early 20th century and then discuss in their music and arts classes the Harlem Renaissance that emerged from the migration.

State officials, Prince George’s County officials and teachers yesterday attended a ceremony at the Treetops Conference Center’s Atrium in Landover, where they lauded “An African American Journey,” the new program in public schools incorporating black American history into the everyday curriculum, instead of limiting it to Black History Month every February.

“This program will not just teach hope, but [instill] a level of expectation in the students,” Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said. “Their career goals are tangible. … These kids, all they need is a shot.”

Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson said the curriculum “represents a paradigm shift and will go down as a turning point.”

“This program is about bridging cultures, how they view each other, how they can better understand each other,” Mr. Johnson said. “This is a huge event.”

Andre J. Hornsby, chief executive officer of Prince George’s County schools, called the program “historic” and promised that county administrators and teachers will be vigilant in implementing the new curriculum.

“If I asked my students today who Benjamin Banneker is, many of them would not know,” Mr. Hornsby said, referring to the black surveyor who helped design the nation’s capital. “But those are the pieces we have to fill in for them. [The county] is committed to making it a seamless part of all of our curriculum, integrating something that should have always been a part of American history.”

The curriculum will be implemented next fall in all state elementary and middle schools, along with a pilot program for high-school students. The multiyear, multicourse program will cover the Colonial period to the present.

Teachers in 118 public elementary and middle schools in Prince George’s and Baltimore counties already have begun instructing students about the experiences and accomplishments of black Americans. Professional development has been provided for teachers participating in the program.

Students will learn about blacks’ contributions to society in a variety of classes and lessons that will focus mainly on the history and culture of blacks in Maryland, as well as events and persons in American history.

The 41-lesson program — which a panel of scholars and historians has reviewed for accuracy — resulted from a partnership between the state education department and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture, which is set to open next year in Baltimore.

The museum, on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, will be a collection of historic contributions of blacks in Maryland, dating back to the state’s earliest history.

State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and museum Chairman George L. Russell Jr. are credited as the catalysts for the program, which Mrs. Grasmick said is the first of its kind in the nation.

Mrs. Grasmick yesterday said she felt a “tremendous” sense of pride that Maryland had “stepped out in front of every other state.”

“The feedback so far, from the teachers and the students, has been outstanding,” she said.

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