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Organization and Conference to Enhance the Inclusion of African American Studies in the State?s Curriculum

(PRWEB) August 9, 2006 -- In 1984, South Carolina state lawmakers recognized the need for a broader, more inclusive portrayal of the nation’s history that would recognize the experiences, culture and contributions of African Americans. This view resulted in the Education
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 Improvement Act of 1984, S.C. Code Ann. § 59-29-55, that stipulated that by the 1989-1990 school
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 year, each public school of the State must instruct students in the history of African-Americans as an integral part of its history and social studies courses. The state legislators also require under this law that the State Board of Education establish regulations for the adoption of history and social studies textbooks, which incorporate African-American history and must, through the State Department of Education, assist the school districts in developing and locating suitable printed materials and other aids for instruction in African-American history.

 “  This conference will offer everyone an opportunity to learn key strategies for including African American studies  
The State Department of Education has attempted in various ways to address the legislation. It has consulted with institutions of higher education to offer training institutes for teacher development, acknowledged the African American student achievement gap, and conducted a one-day conference (2002) to address the issue. It has also created a full-time position for a coordinator to direct the distribution of resources and technical assistance to schools and districts (2005). These efforts have yet to, heretofore, garner consistent statewide recognition of the legislation and adequately include the experiences, culture and contributions African Americans that are still glaringly absent from the state’s curriculum and standards for assessment.

Recognizing this deficiency and the fact that the task is far more than one committed entity could achieve statewide, in January 2006 a group of 12 educators from higher education, K-12, and other educational foundations gathered to establish the South Carolina Council for African American Studies (SCCAAS). This group determined its mission to be “to promote higher standards in all subject core area curricula and instruction for the schools of South Carolina.” With “Guiding Excellence in Everyone’s Education” as its motto, SCCAAS proposes that by galvanizing the efforts of educators at every level and including community stakeholders, many concerns about closing achievement gaps, decreasing under-representation in higher education, and an ever growing need for Multicultural awareness in a global society can be addressed.

SCCAAS centers its efforts around six criteria that will have a significant impact to ensure continuous and recognizable achievement of the goals of the African American history legislation: (1) School Board approval of the African American initiative, (2) On-going and structured professional development, (3) An African American curriculum that crosses all disciplines, (4) Fair and balanced inclusion of African American curriculum in textbooks and assessments, (5) University and K-12 collaboration, and (6) Community Partnerships to build awareness and support. SCCAAS maintains that these six criteria address the primary barriers to the success of the African American history legislation.

SCCAAS will kick-off its mission with a statewide conference on October 26-28, 2006 in Charleston, South Carolina. In partnership with the State Department of Education, and the African American Historical Alliance of South Carolina, the conference will highlight “promising practices” in African American instruction to strengthen the presence of African American history that has been largely unrealized in the classroom. SCCAAS will feature scholars such as Dr. Darlene Clark Hine, nationally and internationally known author in the field of African American Studies; Dr. Donna Y. Ford, Betts Chair of Education and Human Development, Vanderbilt University specializing in multicultural gifted education; Dr. Ronald Rochon, Dean of the School of Education and Associate Vice President for Teacher Education, Buffalo State College; and Dr. Rick Kittles, Professor, specializing in race and genetic ancestry.

Additionally, presentations and seminars from a field practitioner’s perspective will address a variety of topics in today’s educational environment.

Educators from the state and nation, as well as parents and community stakeholders are encouraged to attend the conference. “This conference will offer everyone an opportunity to learn
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 key strategies for including African American studies,” explains Melissa Pearson, Executive Director of SCCAAS.

The Conference will also include an acknowledgement of the legacy of African American men and women who served in the Civil War and made significant contributions to the reconstruction of South Carolina. In association with the African American Historical Alliance of South Carolina (AAHASC), a non-profit organization formally established this year to increase awareness about the role of African Americans in the Civil War and Reconstruction in South Carolina, the Conference will also feature several extracurricular events. One of the events will center on the contributions of Lieutenant Stephen A. Swails. An exhibit and lecture at the Charleston Museum, a graveside ceremonial dedication of a monument to mark the grave of Lieutenant Swails of the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment who is the buried in the Humane and Friendly Society Cemetery in Charleston, and a VIP reception and entertainment provided by the Plantation Singers and other celebrity appearances will take place at the historic William Aiken House.

Lieutenant Stephen A. Swails was one of the first regular commissioned African-American officers to serve in the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment. He also represented Williamsburg County in the South Carolina State Senate and was Speaker Pro Tempore (1870 -- 1877).

“We believe his story is truly remarkable and needs to be told and we hope that our organization will bring a greater awareness to our community about the integral role that [African Americans] played in improving our lives as we know it today,” says the AAHASC president, Billy Jenkinson, attorney from Kingstree, South Carolina and chairman of the Board of Visitors at The Citadel.


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