HISTORY + CIVIL RIGHTS
Why Don't Louisiana Public Schools Teach About The 1953 Bus Boycott?
Before the Montgomery bus boycott, Black people in Baton Rouge challenged Jim Crow laws
In Louisiana, public high schools dedicate a small window of time to discuss the Civil Rights Era, typically during Black history month — the year's shortest month. Students are not provided a Black History textbook but instead read excerpts from key speeches. At some point, the teacher usually shows a documentary film. Afterward, there is no comprehension-check activity or test. Students are encouraged to study and write about a Black historical figure and submit a paper. However, this experience seems marginalized within the curricula.
Teaching a nationalized version of the civil rights era that focuses on King Cotton and never Queen Sugar, that ignores figures like Homer Plessy or Charles Deslondes, or events like Opelousas Massacre or the 1878 Colfax Massacre responsible for crippling the reconstruction era deprive Louisiana students of feeling connected to the Black American experience. As a result, students may never learn about the role cities like New Orleans, and Baton Rouge played in pushing the social justice needle forward.
Perhaps, this is how Tulsan Black students must feel growing up, never learning about the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921, where White residents destroyed homes, businesses and killed hundreds. So many states' history is whitewashed to acknowledge a few instances of injustice and resistance but never provide the whole truth relevant to that geographical area.
While the national conversation often emphasizes White parents' discomfort with the inclusion of Black History, the current educational environment does not meet the needs of Black students. Students should learn about the willingness of Americans to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and how White backlash contributed to the deconstruction of the Reconstruction era. It took nearly a hundred more years for Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Teaching students that civil rights happened in one march towards progress skews history, which is why many people grow up thinking that civil rights were won and done when in reality, there has…