The Look in Brief

Education committee drops discussion of Black history education

By: - September 17, 2021 6:55 pm
Tennessee House of Representatives (Photo: John Partipilo)

Tennessee House of Representatives (Photo: John Partipilo)

Chattanooga Democratic Rep. Yusef Hakeem says he is “surprised and disappointed” the Joint Legislative Education Committee won’t be discussing a bill he introduced during legislative session to provide the study of Black history to public school students. 

In April, HB1460 was deferred to summer study, which typically means a bill has little traction. Hakeem wrote to House Education Committee Chair Mark White, R-Memphis on June 29 asking for a date on which the committee would take up the bill. According to Hakeem, White didn’t respond. 

Rep. Yusef Hakeem, D-Chattanooga (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)
Rep. Yusef Hakeem, D-Chattanooga (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

Hakeem’s effort comes after the legislature passed a bill to ban the teaching of critical race theory.

HB0580, sponsored by Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, and it’s companion bill SB0623, sponsored by Republican Sen. Mike Bell of Riceville, prohibits any publicly-funded school from teaching that one race or sex is inherently superior to another or promoting division between races, classes or genders. 

Although there is no evidence Tennessee public schools teach critical race theory, which is defined as the intersection of race and U.S. law in order to challenge mainstream American liberal approaches to justice, politicians and parents alike have become concerned about its being taught. 

Black history intersects every period of American history, and the history of Black people in America is tied to the history of everyone else,” Hakeem said in a statement.  “To NOT teach Black history is to deprive students of an important piece of the American story.” 

“I hope that we will be able to have substantive discussions on this matter soon, as promised, and that the omission is not an attempt to ignore this important issue.”

At publication time, White had not responded to a request for comment.

The Joint House Education Committee meets Wednesday and Thursday. Hakeem’s bill is not on the agenda. 



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