Peters Introduces 1619 Act to Raise Awareness, Understanding of African American History in Schools

Legislation Would Provide Funding for Educators to Gain Access to Educational Programming from the National Museum of African American History & Culture

DETROIT, MI – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (MI) today announced he introduced a bill to increase awareness and understanding of African American history across our schools through expanded access to programming from the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The 1619 Act would provide federal funding to support African American History educational programs through workshops and professional development activities for educators. Peters’ bill is cosponsored by 15 Senators, including U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (MI).

“Michiganders and Americans across the country are demanding we work together to address bigotry, hatred and systemic racism. While I know we can meet this moment by working together, a central part of that effort must include ensuring that this generation – and future generations – of students can learn about and fully understand American history, including the African American experience,” said Senator Peters. “Black history should not only be recognized in our public schools as something that happens one month a year, each February but something that is a larger part of the curriculum throughout the year. I’m proud to introduce the 1619 Act, which would help educators overcome barriers to teaching about African American history by providing federal funding and promote awareness and understanding among students.”

“As we search for ways to come together in order to tackle the systemic racism that has stained our society for centuries, reimagining how we teach our students about African American history and culture is a top priority,” said Hilary O. Shelton, Senior Vice President for Advocacy and Policy & Director of the Washington Bureau, NAACP. “Providing more of our educators the opportunity to access the resources needed to impart these lessons on their students is critical to securing any progress we are able to make, and we commend Senator Peters, Senator Casey and Senator Rosen for spearheading this effort."

“For too long, our educational system has withheld students from further exploring the triumphs, horrors and heroes of African American history that are so integral to our nation’s story,” said Ebonie C. Riley, DC Bureau Chief, National Action Network. “The 1619 Act would be a first step in ensuring that the next generation of students can immerse themselves in this important historical narrative, and we look forward to continue working with the Senators to ensure it is enacted into law.”

We are constantly working to improve educational programs for our students and assist our educators and administrators in ensuring they have all the available resources to do so,” said Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson, Superintendent of Oakland County Schools. “There is no question that our schools can do more to increase awareness and understanding of African American history. Senator Peters’ 1619 Act is common sense, much-needed legislation and I believe dedicated federal funding to expand African American history educational programs would make a difference.”

“NEA commends Senator Peters, Senator Rosen and Senator Casey for introducing the 1619 Act,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, President, National Education Association. “We are happy to see a bill that bolsters and helps public school educators utilize the already amazing materials at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It is vitally important that our students from all backgrounds learn about and understand African-American history and the African-American experience in the United States. That African-American story is rich, amazing, and heart wrenching. It is inextricably intertwined with the origin story of the founding of our country. Knowledge and information about the critical role of African Americans in this country is also a step in helping to end systemic racism. Making sure our educators have the training and information necessary to share is critical and we think this bill will help to make that happen.”

Many schools are not required to teach students about African American history and educators can face barriers including a lack of funding to access quality resources, a lack of awareness of where to find resources, or a lack of knowledge of how to develop or incorporate curricula. The 1619 Act would recognize the importance of African American history at the federal level, provide $10 million in funding over a five-year period and expand the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s education programming to teachers across the country.

This funding would specifically be available to support high school teachers, middle school teachers, school administrators and prospective teachers engage with quality resources on African American history. This in turn would help allow students in schools across the nation to learn more about African American history as well as teach valuable lessons from the African American experience along with the economic, political, social, cultural and other contributions generations of African American leaders have made to our nation.

The 1619 Act would additionally:

  • Expand the National Museum of African American History and Culture professional development programs, through activities such as local, regional, and national workshops, teacher trainings with African American history education partners, and engagement with local educational agencies and schools.
  • Require the museum to create and maintain a centralized website for African American history, where educators can find curriculum materials, best practice and resources.
  • Prioritize support for schools that currently do not offer African American history education programs;
  • Organize and promote local, regional and national workshops and teacher trainings with African American history education partners, and;
  • Encourage individual states’ education agencies to work with schools in order to integrate these programs within their course curriculum.