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African American history milestones

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

To the editors:

Congratulations and thank you for the Winter 2005-06 issue. The dedication of the issue to the historic decision, making a course in African and African American history mandatory in all Philadelphia public high schools, is commendable.

Knowledge of the life, culture, history, and equality struggles of African American people is crucial for historical studies and a quality curriculum. It can help impart a deeper, more rounded-out understanding of the U.S., the world, and enhance public education.

You are right to go back to the walkout of thousands of Philadelphia high school students in 1967 to demonstrate at the Board of Education for African American history.

I would like to mention another milestone along the way to today’s achievement.

In 1970, I was a social studies teacher at West Philadelphia High School (WPHS), with concentrations and curricular components in African American and labor history. With the support of my department and central office, I was able to arrange for Herbert Aptheker to visit WPHS to speak to the social studies and English teachers. That day, Aptheker – the literary executor of W.E.B. DuBois and author of such ground-breaking studies as American Negro Slave Revolts (1943) – lifted the consciousness of the teachers considerably and made a historic, dynamic contribution to the study and teaching of African American history and literature at WPHS.

George M. Fishman
Retired teacher, West Philadelphia High School
New Haven, Connecticut

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