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The History of Africans in America – New Ethnic Studies Class

This term, Santa Barbara High School introduced a new class in coordination with the new state-wide required ethnic studies curriculum. Santa Barbara used to have a course called “Black Studies” that has been redesigned into “The History of Africans in America” course being taught by Mr.Jackson. This course fulfills the ethnic studies requirement and electives requirement towards high school graduation. This class is a year-long course but it was designed so the student can take just one semester. You can earn 10 credits for the full-year or just 5 for the semester. The first semester covers the history of Africans in America through the slave trade in the 1600s to world war 2; the second semester covers world war 2 to the modern civil rights era and the present.  Currently, 14 students are enrolled, “it’s a small class because I didn’t have a normal chance to do recruiting,” says Assistant Principal Mr.Dupont.  

Mr.Jackson played a key part of writing the curriculum and he also teaches the ethnic studies semester-long course. Mr. Jackson is a part of the “Ethnic Studies Cadre”, which is a district-wide group of teachers. This Cadre is supported by Artnelson Concordia, the district instruction support specialist, who says the implementation of this course is part of the “larger context for initiation of this class is our district’s commitment to developing a broad rigorous and dynamic ethnic studies program, that course is fundamental”. This group of educators worked together for months picking apart the old class using what they could and adding in what was necessary for the state’s ethnic studies requirement. They wrote out the units and their main ideas and key points. Mr. Dupont copied and pasted this course plan into a portal that the district uses to submit new courses. This course was then put on the board agenda in December and was unanimously approved at the December 15th meeting. Overall getting this course into the curriculum was about a year-long process.

Not only this course but also the ethnic studies curriculum are in response to community demands and needs. Though this class was in the works prior to the Black Lives Matter movement of this past summer, it was definitely a catalyst for continuing the initiation of ethnic studies and black stories into the larger curriculum within the district. Artnelson Concordia said, “my understanding is that the course is a result of community demands… curriculum should tell the stories that have been marginalized and even disappeared, so the History of Africans in America and the Black Studies program is part of this larger, and very welcomed, response by our district to make education a much more well-rounded experience reflective of our students, community, and larger country”. Mr. Dupont said, “if we can add in a course that like is completely relevant to modern-day topics, things that Society is talking about right now, heck yes we want to be able to add… so you know how this applies your everyday life, what’s going on in society made people more motivated to get it done right now”. 

This class will be available to all three high schools DPHS, SMHS, and SBHS, as well as the continuation and alternative schools, however, the challenge, as Mr. Concordia tells me is that “we want to expand but we also want to make sure that the teachers leading the class are grounded in ethnic studies and are part of our teacher community where we are supporting curriculum development”. Not all schools have a Mr. Jackson that is well versed in social dialogue and the ethnic studies curriculum, but it is also a challenge to find a teacher willing to go the extra mile to take extra courses and educate themselves in order to properly educate their students. 

This course, along with the Ethnic Studies and Social Justice course, that started this year, is a part of the district’s long-term goal to create a series of courses where we will have an Ethnic Studies class for each year in high school. 

[Image Credit: Department of Ethnic Studies- Berkeley]


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    Co-Editor in Chief 2020/2021! Senior - Grade 12 I've been involved in school journalism throughout middle school and high school. I plan to go to university for journalism and political science.

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