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Gov. Ron DeSantis has faced criticism over his decision to reject an Advanced Placement course on African American studies to be taught in Florida high schools. February is Black History Month, and we asked educators, historians, and community members to weigh in on why teaching the full scope of history is more important than ever. We’re sharing what they had to say, in their own words.

This teacher says Black history is American history

Teacher Larré Davis, sits at a microphone, wearing a blue shirt in Africa print and earrings shaped like Africa
Kerry Sheridan
WUSF Public Media
Larré Davis teaches middle school language arts in Apollo Beach

February is Black History Month, and WUSF is featuring the voices of educators, historians and people in the Greater Tampa Bay region who have been moved by learning a piece of Black history.

"My name is Larré Davis, and I am a middle school language arts teacher in Apollo Beach.

"I think it is important, especially for African American students, to understand that their history did not start at slavery. That's because as a student, it's hard to find value in yourself when you look in the mirror when you start at such a violent start to history.

"And so I think it's important to educate students on the kings and queens, and the innovators and the educators and the artists and civil leaders that predated slavery in this country.

"I think it's important to weave Black history into your everyday conversations. It's important to weave it throughout the entire school year. And I do that by showcasing material that highlights African-Americans.

"For instance, right now, I am reading with my sixth grade language arts students a series of books written by Jason Reynolds, the Track series. And the first book that we read together that excited my sixth-grade learners was Ghost. And so we finished that in no time. And they were super excited about reading the next series, which is the second book Patina. So we're reading that now.

"Maybe it's just been my mission as an educator to open up the minds and the hearts of Black students to get them to understand exactly who they are. Because I truly feel like, if you don't know who you are, then you won't know where you're going.

"Black history is not just for African Americans. It is for all of us. Black history is American history. And it is just as equally as important for students of all races to know and be able to place value on the African-American experience.

"And so I think that white children, Asian children, Hispanic children, doesn't matter their background. It's important for them to learn because honestly children are curious, they are curious by nature, and they want to know answers to questions. And I would venture to say they want to ask the hard questions. They want to know the why.

"It really, truly is a privilege to be an educator, and even more so in this very polarized environment that we're in right now. So I call it a privilege to teach children and to have the ability to impact their lives and to help them to kind of clear up some some foggy areas in their minds and in their hearts, and be that teacher that they will look back on in their lives and say, 'Miss Davis was hard on me, but she always told me the truth.'"

This audio postcard was produced by WUSF's Kerry Sheridan.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.