Researchers evaluate black history in state, national curriculum

Emma Acosta

Two UT staff members from the Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis believe a more accurate portrayal of black history and involvement in the United States is needed in Texas and national curriculum plans and textbooks.

Postdoctoral fellow Naomi Reed and research associate Karen Moran Jackson want to change the depiction of African Americans in Texas history books. Reed and Jackson said today’s textbooks look like they were written ages ago and focus primarily on the impact of white Americans.

“I hope that people will realize that “multicultural” curriculum is nice in theory, but if the images chosen to represent people of color are just pathologic backdrops to white narratives then they are useless if not more damaging,” Reed said in an email. 

Reed and Jackson said they wrote about the need for more black history in textbooks because they felt the topic of what is missing from the curriculum needs to be addressed. The two wrote about how Texas curriculum standards are adopted in a complicated process where recommendations by experts are not “binding or prioritized.” 

“I, and a lot of other people, argue that there needs to be more expert, and educator, input and review in what the standards of textbooks are,” Jackson said. “Their opinion should hold more sway than state board education’s.” 

Education associate professor Anthony Brown, whose research focuses on contemporary and historical issues concerning African American studies in school and society, said he believes including all the different race’s and culture’s histories into Texas textbooks would give a better and more diverse view of how America was shaped. Brown said students should know all the narratives associated with the formation and creation of today’s American morals. 

“[More narratives] gives you a much more accurate depiction of what we define as America,” Brown said. “We start citing people and their role in allowing America to truly live up to its ideals of democracy and equality. You almost want to be able to say Harriet Tubman and George Washington in the same breath.”

Reed, whose current research projects aim to impact textbook reform, said she hopes to see a change in how black history is portrayed in Texas textbooks, but will remain persistent and active in trying to make changes until they happen.

“I believe some sort of change will come soon,” Reed said in an email. “And if not, then the struggle continues.”