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'It's simply about fact': New group helping Kentucky schools teach Black History

The group aims to collaborate with teachers to create programming and curate lesson plans that enhance the teaching of Black History across the commonwealth.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Wednesday marked the start of Black History Month, and the start of a new chapter for the recently-formed Association for Teaching Black History in Kentucky

The group aims to collaborate with teachers to create programming and curate lesson plans that enhance the teaching of Black History across the commonwealth.

"As we start to think about developing programs, we want to be responsive to the needs that educators will have," Chaka Cummings, executive director, said. "That really is getting into classrooms and establishing relationships not only with teachers but with school districts.”

On Wednesday, Cummings joined Lieutenant Governor Jacqueline Coleman and representatives from the Muhammad Ali Center and Jefferson County Public Schools in a kick off to Black History Month -- and to spread the word about the new initiative. 

The association was formed in partnership with the Thomas D. Clark Foundation, Berea College, Kentucky State University and the Muhammad Ali Center. 

Cummings said they want to improve the teaching of Black History, especially Kentucky-centered Black History, in a holistic way.

"Part of the goals of the association is understanding where the standards are and making sure that we're helping educators meet those standards knowing Black History is our lens to do so," he said. “There is a Black History lens to economics, there is a Black History lens to women's suffrage, so we can have those conversations and really bring that in.”

The state recently implemented requirements that certain primary documents, like speeches, be taught in Kentucky schools. 


Cummings said educators can loop Black History lessons into the existing requirements. 

“We can look at the primary source documents that are already required and we can supplement what’s being taught and think about how can we bring in lessons that relate to what’s already required," he noted. 

City leaders commented that teaching of Black History has been seen as controversial in some places. They said that emphasizes the need for inclusive lessons. 

"This shouldn’t be controversial because it’s simply about fact," Keisha Dorsey, deputy chief of staff, said. “What we know about history is, if you don’t learn the lesson, it will surely come back around.”

“There is no better time in American history to attack and address some of the things we have not done well in our curriculum," Dr. John Marshall, chief equity officer for JCPS, said.

The association has already created a website to gather lesson plans, videos and other materials for teachers. They also plan to create an educator advisory board. 

“Teachers will tell us there are gaps in that area, and not necessarily because they don’t want to teach it but because they may not have the experience," Cummings said. 

The association doesn't want Black History to be limited to one month. Cummings hopes the lessons learned in February will continue to be a focus in the future. 

“We’re thinking about the experiences of Black Kentuckians and we’re also thinking about the experience of Black students in the classroom," he said.

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