Windsor-Essex English public schools introducing new Black history curriculum

The English public school board in Windsor-Essex is launching a new curriculum on Black history and culture that reflects current events and new research.

African-Canadian Roads to Freedom curriculum first developed about 15 years ago and updated since

Shantelle Browning-Morgan is shown in a file photo. She is one of the authors of the new Black history curriculum for Windsor-Essex public schools. (Sanjay Maru/CBC)

The English public school board in Windsor-Essex is launching a new curriculum on Black history and culture that reflects current events and new research.

Shantelle Browning-Morgan, a teacher at Hon. W. C. Kennedy Collegiate Institute, is one of the authors of the curriculum. She's also the secretary of the Essex County Black Historical Research Society.

She joined CBC Radio's Windsor Morning on Friday to explain what's new.

Browning-Morgan said she hears from students saying they don't only want to learn about Black history in February, which is Black history month, and they also don't want to learn about it solely in history class.

The new material addresses those concerns, she said.

"That's what we've really done this time, is to make connections to every possible subject so that teachers can teach it not as an event, but as an ongoing process from September until June," she said.

Black Lives Matter and the murder of George Floyd have altered the way the Black experience is seen. But they're not the only things that have changed in our understanding of Black history and culture. Today, teachers from Windsor-Essex public schools will get their first look at an updated curriculum about all this. 9:22

Students have also expressed desire for a curriculum that goes beyond the topic of slavery and the Underground Railroad, Browning-Morgan said.

They want to know more about pre-colonial Africa as well as the contributions and accomplishments of Black Canadians — topics this new curriculum addresses as well, she said.

The curriculum, African-Canadian Roads to Freedom, was first developed about 15 years ago and previously had been updated in 2016.

There is also new information about the Black Lives Matter movement, slavery in Canada, and the fight against segregated education in Ontario and locally.

James L. Dunn, the city's first Black alderman — for whom a new public school is being named — fought for school desegregation and unsuccessfully sued the Windsor Board of Education.

The curriculum also has updated language recommendations, steering educators away from using terms like "runaway slave" and instead using terms such as "freedom seeker," which emphasize their resistance to enslavement, she said.

"We wanted to make sure that educators are using accurate and the most respectful language when discussing people of African descent or the Transatlantic slave trade or the Underground Railroad," Browning-Morgan said.

The Greater Essex County District School Board announced earlier this week that an updated curriculum would be released.Teachers will get their first look at the new material during professional development meetings on Friday.  

"These locally developed resources are intended to provide background information on Black Canadian heritage and culture connected directly to specific learning expectations in the Ontario social studies, history and geography curriculums," the board said in a statement.

"The updates are necessary because our understanding of history is constantly deepening and growing."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


With files from Windsor Morning


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