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Bill requiring more complete Black history to be taught in Delaware public schools becomes law

Gov. John Carney signed a bill Thursday requiring public schools to teach certain elements of Black history. 

House Bill 198 requires all school districts and charter schools to teach a curriculum with elements of Black history including the significance of enslavement in the development of the American economy, the central role racism played in the Civil War, the socio-economic struggle Black people endure in pushing for fair treatment, the contributions of Black people to American life and the history and culture of Black people prior to the African Diaspora.

Carney signed the bill into law surrounded by members of the Delaware Legislative Black Caucus, educators and students. He said elected officials’ primary responsibility is to the state’s children. 

“They are our future,” he said. “And the only way that we can secure our future is to understand and reconcile our past. We have a deep and proud history, but many of us don’t know the full story.”

State Sen. Tizzy Lockman (D-Wilmington) thanked Carney and her fellow lawmakers for “refusing to shield” students from history. 

“An accurate history of our nation and its people must make more than passing references to Black Americans,” she said. “It should include the full account of our contributions to our country and our culture, well beyond the context of our subjugation.”

The measure passed despite criticism from some Republican state lawmakers, who argued it might lead to division, or to some parts of history being left out. Some also took issue with language in the bill mentioning “tools of resistance.”   

Advocates countered that the new curriculum should increase unity—and offer students a more complete understanding of history. 

At Thursday’s bill signing, Delaware Black Student Coalition co-founder Tariah Hyland called the measure “monumental” for generations to come. 

The law went into effect immediately.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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