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Black History Month: Writer recalls fighting for recognition of Black people’s contributions in school

During a world history class in her sophomore year at a rural Texas high school, Coshandra Dillard asked her teacher to incorporate Black history into a lesson or project in February.

February is traditionally celebrated as Black History Month, a time when the societal contributions and successes of Black people are recognized.

The teacher in Dillard’s predominantly white classroom said her idea was good but then did nothing.

“I don’t recall learning anything about Black people anywhere in the world in that class,” Dillard wrote in a commentary for Learning for Justice, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Learning for Justice recently changed its name from Teaching Tolerance to reflect its evolving work in the struggle for radical change in education.

“Africa was barely mentioned – no mention of its civilizations, histories, culture or people,” Dillard wrote. “Of course, I’d already done my own learning at home. I was proud of my African heritage and the influence Black people had throughout the diaspora. So, I knew what was missing.”

Dillard, who is now a senior writer for Learning for Justice, never forgot the incident with her teacher. It inspired her to fight back against racism.

“The good thing that came from the incident was that it made me hungrier to champion people who are marginalized, especially Black people,” she wrote. “In a world that works so hard to sustain white supremacy, I knew then that I’d always have to push back against anti-Blackness every chance I got. That hunger ultimately led me to Learning for Justice.”

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