Dozens of students came to the legislature’s education committee meeting on Wednesday to support two bills that would require Connecticut schools to teach African American and Puerto Rican history.
“This bill is important to me because knowing your history gives importance and a sense of identity and self worth,” said Shane Brooks, a student at the Science and Technology Magnet High School and New London High School. “Going to a public school with a lack of African American studies being taught in school system made me feel irrelevant and unheard…Going to a predominately black and Hispanic school and having all white teachers has been very difficult because I can’t relate to them and I have to listen to their white ideology. The history of racism should be a discussion of the curriculum because America was founded on racism which still affects African Americans.”
House Bill 7082 would require public schools in the state to incorporate African-American studies into their social studies curriculum. House Bill 7083 would institute the same requirement for Puerto Rican and Latino studies.
Speakers addressed the need for students of all races and ethnicities to understand African American and Latino history. One speaker noted that many Americans do not even know that Puerto Rico is a part of the U.S.
The legislation mirrors a 2018 bill that mandates the state’s school districts teach students about the Holocaust and other genocides. That measure was signed into law by former Gov. Dannel P. Malloy.
Howard Sovronsky, the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, was in the audience when Malloy signed the Holocaust awareness bill and strongly supports adding African American history to the curriculum.
“The bill before you today is just as important,” he said. “It is our joint responsibility to do what is necessary to insure that our children are given the tools they need to become engaged, productive and successful adults.”
The committee is expected to vote on the two bills at a later date.