- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 12, 2005

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — In what could be a first in the United States, the Philadelphia school system will soon require that all high-school students take a year of African and African-American studies.

“We have the opportunity … to do something under our watch that is really going to do right by our students, to say, ‘We’ve come from some pretty great places,’” said assistant superintendent Cecilia Cannon.

Two-thirds of the city’s public-school students are black. The course, already offered as an elective at 11 of the city’s 54 high schools, covers topics including classical African civilizations, civil rights and black nationalism, and teachers say it has captivated students.

One high-school class chose a top student to have a $360 genetic test designed to help blacks trace their roots back to Africa. James Sullivan, a senior, learned that his maternal family descends from the Ibo tribe in Nigeria and that his ancestors came to the United States as slaves.

“There were tears in his eyes, but joy also,” said Principal Lois Powell Mondesire, who added that other students are now interested in genetic testing.

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