Social studies department to consider a new African-American History class

Ally Horwitz

Next year, CHS is considering offering a new African-American History class to interested sophomores, juniors and seniors. The class will be a one-semester elective course offered by the social studies department and will focus primarily on African-American history in the United States.

According to social studies teacher James Ziegler, who said he is one of the teachers the administration is considering to teach the new class, the class will shed light on race relations today through the new curriculum and will provide a voice for the parents and students of color who live in Carmel.

Ziegler said, “Black history is often underrepresented. We have very white-washed versions of history that are presented in our curriculum, not only social studies curriculum but English curriculum and all across the board. So there was obviously a need for (an African American History class).”

Justin Quick, the social studies department chairperson, said the semester-long class will be an opportunity for students to gain a better understanding of culture.

He said via email, “In social studies, we are always looking for opportunities to more deeply explore cultures and gain a better understanding of our societal structures and systems so that we can be agents for inclusion and equity. This class advances this charge and responsibility bestowed upon us as an institution of public education.”

The idea for the new class came to light when Ziegler said he worked with the organization Carmel Against Racial Injustice this summer, around the time Black Lives Matter protests took place across the country. Ziegler said many Carmel residents requested the development of an African-American History class.

Chenyao Liu

“Wanting to honor the voice of those Black students and Black families was another impetus for creating the class. We had a hole in our curriculum because we should have a course. African-American history is often overshadowed and underrepresented,” Ziegler said.

Freshman Gabi Bradley, who is considering adding the class to her sophomore year schedule, said she agreed with Ziegler and plans to take the class to hopefully learn more in-depth information about her own culture.

She said, “I was thinking about taking the class because I’d like to learn more about my history, where I come from, my culture (and) people who look like me because a lot of times in our history classes we don’t get in-depth with it, especially African-American history.”

Quick said traditional U.S. History classes do not explore African-American culture in-depth, which makes the African-American History class an opportunity to explore those topics further.

“This class is important as it offers greater voice to influential Black leaders and highlights achievements by African-Americans that are often overlooked or taught on the surface level in regular U.S. History,” he said.

Chenyao Liu

This school year, 2020-2021, and in prior years, the department offered Ethnic Studies and African Studies as elective options for students. African Studies is a one-semester class that focuses on the study of African kingdoms, and in Ethnic Studies, students study different ethnic groups and diversity from multiple perspectives.

In addition to those classes, African American Studies, according to Ziegler, provides students with the opportunity to explore the history of the African-American experience in the United States, from the trans-Atlantic to the modern civil rights movement. Elective classes are generally not required as a graduation requirement. Ziegler said, however, the class is important for all students.

He said, “I think there’s still so many issues we’re grappling with today, and oftentimes people’s ideas that they develop are based on false histories that they’ve learned, misrepresentations and false stereotypes that have been socialized over time, and I think this course is one way we can start kind of breaking down some of those barriers.”