Cherry Hill School District makes African American History mandatory; students enjoying the course

The new curriculum was created in the wake of George Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis police officer.
CHERRY HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Last spring, the Cherry Hill School District made African American History a mandatory course.

The district says students are enjoying the course, which was before an elective. Several students said it's about time.

"What I learned in my regular history classes, you just learned blacks were enslaved," said Cherry Hill East High School junior A'Kiyah Gittens.

Gittens says she was excited to learn more about her history. The district decided that Black history is something all students needed to learn to graduate.

"All you've learned is revised history. And it just opens your mind more to reality and why everybody's having these marches. Everybody's angry about the past," Gittens said.

The new curriculum was created in the wake of George Floyd's murder by a Minneapolis police officer.

It was designed by experts from local universities with a focus on tough conversations.

"How do we have candid conversations without being offensive?" asked assistant superintendent Dr. Farrah Mahan. "How do we recognize something that we have said can marginalize a particular group of people?"

Initially, the course had some pushback, the district said mainly from outsiders.

"We've heard more opposition from outside of Cherry Hill. People who want to assign a different value to what this class is that is not true," said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Meloche.

Students say while history is about recognizing differences, they have realized there are more differences.

"If you can learn to see things from other points of view and other cultures, you get to see more about yourself," said junior Zach Mailman.

The Cherry Hill School District hopes more districts give an accurate portrayal of African American history.

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