Gov. Ralph Northam on Saturday signed an executive order to establish the Commission on African American History Education. The Commission is charged with reviewing Virginia’s history standards, and the instructional practices, content, and resources currently used to teach African American history in the Commonwealth.
One Loudoun County resident, Pastor Michelle C. Thomas, founder and CEO of the Loudoun Freedom Center and president NAACP Loudoun Chapter, was among 39 individuals appointed to serve on the panel.
Northam made the announcement during at the2019 Commemoration of the First African Landing, a ceremony to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in English-occupied North America at Point Comfort in 1619.
“The full history of Virginia is complex, contradictory, and often untold—and we must do a better job of making sure that every Virginia graduate enters adult life with an accurate and thorough understanding of our past, and the pivotal role that American Americans have played in building and perfecting our Commonwealth,”Northam said. “The important work of this Commission will help ensure that Virginia’s standards of learning are inclusive of African American history and allow students to engage deeply, drawing connections between historic racial inequities and their continuous influence on our communities today.”
The commission is required to issue its report no later than July 1, with recommendations for improving the student experience, including but not limited to:
- Technical edits to and recommendations for enriched standards related to African American history;
- Broader considerations for the full history and social studies standards review process; and
- Necessary professional development and instructional supports for all teachers to ensure culturally competent instruction.
Additionally, the Virginia Department of Education will work withVirtual Virginia,WHRO Public Media, and committees of history and social science public school educators, university historians, and college professors to develop a new African American history course for high school students. This new elective will be available to all students in the commonwealth virtually beginning in the fall of 2020. Its component digital parts will be accessible resources for students in numerous other history courses.
In addition to Thomas, members of the committee are:
•Derrick P. Alridgeof Charlottesville, Professor of Education and Director of the Center for Race and Public Education in the South, Curry School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
- Dr. Rosa S. Atkinsof Charlottesville, Superintendent, Charlottesville City Schools
- Edward Ayersof Richmond, Professor of the Humanities, University of Richmond
- Jarvis E. Baileyof Fredericksburg, High School Administrator, Westmoreland County Public Schools and School Board Member, Fredericksburg City
- Maria D. Burgosof Prince William County, Supervisor of Global Learning and Culturally Responsive Instruction, Prince William County Public Schools
- Christy S. Colemanof Chesterfield, CEO, American Civil War Museum
- Dr. Robert N. Corley, IIIof Chesterfield, Associate Vice-Provost for Academic Affairs and Project Director, The Wallace Foundation’s University Principal Preparation Initiative, Virginia State University
- Pamela Croomof Hampton, President-Elect, Virginia PTA
- Dr. Andrew P. Daireof Moseley, Dean of the School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
- Crystal DeLongof Bedford, Teacher, Liberty High School, Bedford County Public Schools
- Beau Dickensonof Harrisonburg, President, Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium and Social Studies Supervisor, Rockingham County Public Schools
- Crystal M. Edwardsof Lynchburg, Superintendent, Lynchburg City Schools
- Anne Marie Evansof Fluvanna County, Director of Education and Outreach–New American History, University of Richmond
- Dr. John K. Leeof Raleigh, Professor, North Carolina State University
- Makya Renée Littleof Woodbridge, Parent Advocate and Florida A&M University Alumnus
- Dr. Monica Mannsof Henrico, Director of Equity and Diversity, Henrico County Public Schools
- Basil Marinof Atlanta, Assistant Principal, DeKalb County Schools
- Tyrone Nelsonof Henrico County, Chairman, Henrico County Board of Supervisors and Pastor, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church of Richmond
- Dr. Cassandra L. Newby-Alexanderof Chesapeake, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Professor of History, Norfolk State University
- The Honorable Atif Qarniof Prince William, Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia
- Gloria Randolph-Kingof Roanoke, Retired Roanoke City Public Schools Administrator
- Rodney Robinsonof Richmond, 2019 National Teacher of the Year
- Dr. Vanessa D. Thaxton-Wardof Hampton, Director, Hampton University Museum
- Dr. Dietra Trentof Halifax, Former Secretary of Education
- Dr. James F. Laneof Chesterfield, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction
- Dr. Alice Reillyof Alexandria, Educator, George Mason University
- Renita S. Williamsof Chesapeake, Secondary Social Studies Instructional Supervisor, Newport News Public Schools
- Rodney Jordanof Norfolk, Co-Chair, Virginia School Boards Association Task Force on Students and Schools in Challenging Environments and School Board Member, Norfolk City
- Cainan Townsendof Farmville, Director of Education, Robert Russa Moton Museum
- Chris Van Tassellof Richmond, Program Coordinator and Educator, Virginia Museum of History & Culture
- Robert C. Watsonof Williamsburg, Assistant Professor of History, Hampton University
- Dr. William E. Whiteof Williamsburg, Visiting Distinguished Scholar, Christopher Newport University
- Jonathan C. Zurof Richmond, President and CEO, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities
- Additional information about the Commission and its meetings will be available onlinehere.