Gov. Glenn Youngkin

Virginia considers revisions to African American history course

2 years since Gov. Youngkin (VA) banned “inherently divisive concepts”, VA education department to make changes to African-American history course statewide.

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A document has revealed over 40 proposed revisions to Virginia’s elective African American history course. The changes suggested by the state’s education department include removing some references to white supremacy, institutional racism, and sexism. 

These proposed changes, submitted in August 2023, were part of a review to ensure compliance with Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s executive order banning “inherently divisive concepts” from classrooms. This order, introduced in 2022, has previously been used to remove various diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. “Inherently divisive concepts” according to the Executive order means advancing any ideas in violation of Title IV and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 


The document obtained by watchdog group American Oversight cited rationales such as clarity, redundancy, and violation of the executive order for the changes to the curriculum outline and course content. These changes range from replacing terms such as “racism” with  “discriminatory practices,” to more substantial alterations like removing lessons on implicit bias and equity.

The state education department spokesman, Todd Reid, stated that the review is ongoing and no changes have been implemented yet. However, some professors involved in creating the original curriculum are concerned that the proposed revisions could dilute key topics and language if implemented.

Derrick Lanois, an assistant professor of history at Norfolk State University who helped develop the original course, criticized the proposed changes, stating, “White supremacy and institutional racism does not exist according to this document.”

Reid explained that professional staff reviewed the course for compliance with both Youngkin’s order and new history standards approved in April 2023. The course, introduced in 2020 under the previous administration, is currently offered in 89 schools across 45 districts, with approximately 1,700 students enrolled.

This review has sparked debate about the appropriate approach to teaching African American history in Virginia schools. Critics argue that the proposed changes could “whitewash” history, while supporters maintain that the course will continue to provide a comprehensive exploration of African American history, including both positive and negative aspects.

The education department emphasizes that the review process is still ongoing, and no final decisions have been made regarding the implementation of these proposed changes.

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