I am teaching American History. Is it also Critical Race Theory?
I relate my experiences in the 1960s civil rights movement to students in a variety of educational settings. I have presented to elementary, middle school, and high school students, as well as to community colleges and universities, both undergraduate and graduate classes. My program of presentations has earned me the Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award from the National Education Association at their 2019 meeting in Houston, Texas. So far, no one has complained or suggested that I am teaching something called Critical Race Theory.
My understanding of the criticism of Critical Race Theory is that it is a curriculum being taught to indoctrinate school-aged children with tales so horrific that they feel ashamed of our American History and feel that they are to blame for the plight of racial unrest in our country. Some states have outlawed the teaching of Critical Race Theory because, they posit, it causes the students to feel ashamed of being white. Basically, these laws target teachers who try to present a historically accurate picture of the development of our country, including our Civil War and our Civil Rights Movement.
The laws against teaching a true picture of our American History in the United States seem to be trying to rewrite our history. Many states had on their books and in the laws of their constitution that unequivocally stated that people of color shall attend different schools from white students, and shall not be together in public libraries, public parks, movie theaters, restaurants, or even churches. According to the 1896 U.S. Supreme Court Case, Plessy v. Ferguson, “separate but equal” was the law of the land. But this case was unanimously overturned in 1954 by the U.S. Supreme Court in Brown vs. Board of Education, which ruled that separate but equal public schools were inherently unequal, in violation of the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to our Constitution.
The Mississippi Freedom Summer was when about 1,000 college-aged students from all across our nation came to Mississippi to teach in Freedom Schools, engage in attempts at voter registration with local citizens, organize the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and organize Black farmers to try and elect representatives to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS).
Freedom Schools were necessary because segregated schools were the law of the land in Mississippi. Black schools were in session for three to five months each year, whereas white schools were in session for nine months. It is clear that attending a Black school would not impart a quality education when compared to white schools.
But this public policy of segregation was not limited to the Mississippi public schools. All of society in Mississippi and other states across the South were segregated. Any business or place where people could congregate was subject to the public policy of keeping white and people of color completely separate.
I am a primary resource when it comes to civil rights, particularly in education. I began my teaching career as a Freedom School teacher during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. I am part of the solution to the problem of school curricula, “Critical Race Theory” because I present my personal experiences to students in educational settings. My years in teacher training at the university level have convinced me that we must teach verifiable facts to our students, not politically driven material that seeks to misconstrue our actual American History.
Charles O. Prickett, J.D., Ph.D.
Attorney At Law
Author of the book, “Remembering Mississippi Freedom Summer”.