Durham activist calls for black history in classrooms

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Advocates want black history to be taught in Durham's classrooms.

A minister is asking the Durham school board for a change in the way children learn about black history.

He wants all middle schools to offer black history classes, and to make black history a graduation requirement for all high school students.

The discussion Thursday night was as much about keeping Durham's young people out of jail and out of the court system as it was about the classroom.

Paul Scott is convinced that bringing black history into the schools could help what ails the city's youth.

Thursday night, one by one, four speakers in all, pushed the Durham School Board to make black history mandatory in county classrooms.

The push was organized by Scott, a Durham minister and activist.

"I don't think it's a magic bullet but I think it's a start," Scott said.

Scott ties the city's uptick in crime, the school's rising suspension rates and classroom achievement gaps to a lack of self-confidence in black students. His prescription? Black history classes in all middle schools. And a requirement for high-school graduation.

"With all these young African-American males dying in the streets of Durham, the one thing we have not tried as far as stopping the violence is giving them a sense of self-worth that would come from learning black history," Scott said.

Former DPS board member Jackie Wagstaff wants to go even further than Scott. She wants to make black history mandatory at the elementary level. On Thursday, she lobbied her former colleagues to make the move.

"As it relates to policies and procedures, they can make 'em or break 'em," Wagstaff said. "They are in charge of policies and doing what they want to do with Durham Public Schools."

Thursday's discussion was limited to public comment only. It was not on the agenda, and the board did not discuss it.

Scott said his goal was to get the ball rolling for what he hopes becomes a policy discussion in the near future.

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