The exclusion of an African American history course as “woke culture” by the Florida administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis should set off alarm bells within the Black community. That’s because the politics of the educational system has long been a contentious topic for a people still needing to recover from the effects of slavery and Jim Crow.
Understand that the infrastructure of Black education was devised on the fly during the Civil War era by the same powers that oppressed them. By the 1930s, critics such as the historian Carter G. Woodson questioned the effects of such curriculums in “The Mis-Education of the Negro.” The designation of February as a safe space to learn about precious moments in Black history is one of his contributions.
As America begins a month of revisiting its racial past, events in Florida should be a reminder of the fragile nature of recent inclusive educational reforms. And it indicates a continuing need for alternative ways to introduce forgotten heritage — and perhaps in no area more than Black political history.
Rather than depicting achievements in state creation and governance, the education system tends to render Black political history as overly dependent on other groups and restricted to America. In response to such teachings, scholars such as the late historian Jacob Carruthers, in the 1999 work “Intellectual Warfare,” advocated for easily accessible materials of learning to counterbalance miseducation.
For educators in Florida, as well as other states under contest, it seems an appropriate moment to revisit this idea. One alternative is the creation of an online Black political history calendar with social media outreach, screensavers apps — and a print version capable of being shared through Bluetooth technology.
While the act of defining one’s place in historical time is largely a symbolic gesture, and Black political culture tends to be overly reliant on such things, the ritual nonetheless can help a maligned group define and preserve its legacy.
As such, the Black political history calendar would be a useful tool for restoring the legacy of state management and instilling the value of political participation. It could be a low-cost way to respond to orchestrated assaults on inclusive learning as the struggle to devise racially affirming curriculums continues.
As envisioned, the calendar would maintain the 12-month, 365-day format but shift the point of historical reference. Rather than starting from the time of Jesus Christ under the “Anno Domini” calendar, it instead would begin with the rise of Africa’s first great state, Egypt. As such, it could be a vehicle to account for 5,123 years of state management (the commonly accepted year for the federation of pre-dynastic Egypt is about 3100 B.C.).
To clarify, if the years from 3100 are combined with the modern calendar of 2023, then the Black political calendar would cover 5,123 years of state engagement. Over time, the calendar could introduce a continuous line of governance from the ancient Nile River civilization to the presidency of Barack Obama.
In addition to historical episodes, the calendar would take note of contemporary dates for voter registration and elections, and could be updated for historical content and political events in other years.
Here are four imperative episodes in the Black political experience that I would suggest for the debut calendar year of 5123. First, the pages should claim the legacy of the ancient Nile River kingdoms and commemorate the vision of historian Cheikh Anta Diop.
In the 1970s, the Senegalese scholar pioneered a movement for the restoration of Egypt’s Black founders in world history. His 1974 study, The African Origin of Civilization: Myth or Reality, argued on behalf of the “oneness of Egyptian and Black culture” and ignited a program of historical correction. One enduring outcome was the eight-volume “General History of Africa,” published in the 1990s by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and distributed by the University of California Press.
In addition to Egypt, the calendar should herald the Nile River kingdoms of Kush and Ethiopia. The states were as old as Egypt, influenced its culture and economy, and prospered after lower Egypt was overrun by foreign forces beginning about 600 B.C. New understandings of the Nile River kingdoms have inspired corrective public humanity programs, such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts 2020 exhibit “Ancient Nubia Now,” and the 2021 showing, “The Origin of African Civilization,” by the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Second, the calendar should document the early kingdoms of the western Sudan, the…