People For the American Way

Civil Rights and Community Leaders Address Governor Youngkin’s Whitewashing of History

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 6, 2022

Contact: Press Department at People For the American Way

Email: media@pfaw.org

Phone Number: 202-467-4999

WASHINGTON  People For the American Way, The Leadership Conference Education Fund, and NAACP today held a telephone press briefing to launch the Black History Is American History campaign, an initiative to elevate the central role of Black history in America’s history and push back on the whitewashing efforts of Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin. The speakers called for parents and educators to use Governor Youngkin’s so-called “tip line” to voice their support for an inclusive curriculum and teaching that provides students with the accurate information they need to lead a diverse Virginia into the future.

Audio of the call is available here.

Wade Henderson, interim president and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, said: “We are here to say that our children deserve access to inclusive and accurate history, whether they are Black, Latino, White, Native American, or Asian American. We owe our students the opportunity to wrestle with the difficult aspects of our history so that they are prepared to create a more just and equitable future. Because let’s be clear: All students deserve access to an education that prepares them to succeed; to exercise their social, political, and economic rights; and to thoughtfully examine the whole truth of our history and how it reverberates today.”

“Black history is American history. In fact, African Americans in this country have fought hard in their quest to protect democracy. If the efforts of the governor of Virginia, and the efforts of many governors across the states are successful, we would dim the light of democracy — something we have fought hard to ensure that all citizens can appreciate,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP.

“Our message is clear: stop lying to our children. The attempt to make us believe that Black history is not American history is an attempt to stop progress in real time,” said Svante Myrick, executive director of People For the American Way. “Here’s our call to action: We’re inviting Virginia families to submit their stories of support for an accurate teaching of history to the governor’s ‘tip line.’ It’s crucial for us to work together to tell our politicians, including Virginia Governor Youngkin, that Black parents matter, Black students matter, and that Black history is American history. We cannot lie to our children about history and should instead make Virginia a place where all children can see themselves in our shared story. When you do not give children the freedom to learn, you are hurting all families and creating barriers that damage their future.”

Dr. Amy Tillerson-Brown, Virginia NAACP education chair, said: “The story of Barbera Johns is representative of ‘…Virginia’s civil rights oppression’ described in former Superintendent Lane’s February 22, 2019, memo to Virginia division superintendents providing resources to support student and community dialogues on racism — a document that current Superintendent Jillian Barlow rescinded on February 9, 2022 because she claimed that it ‘promoted teaching social justice, systemic inequality, and anti-racist policies that are consistent with Critical Race Theory and without offering alternatives.’ The alternative to promoting the teaching of social justice is promoting teaching of social injustice, which is what effectively happens when history —  including the activism of Barbera Johns — is eliminated from history curriculum. People in power, irritated by the realities of racial oppression, erroneously describe it as ‘divisive’ in an attempt to justify muting very important voices necessary to harmonize the chorus of American history. We need to hear the highs (sopranos), lows (bass), and everything in between. A school culture that is equitable for ALL students IS a school culture of excellence.”

As a parent and as an educator and community advocate, I am committed to ensuring my children and all children in Virginia and beyond are taught the full truth of American history,” said Dr. Wes Bellamy, a Virginia parent. “Black history is American history and children are resourceful and resilient. It is our job to provide them access to learn accurate history by fighting for equitable schools and through collective information sharing.”

To share your story and connect with Governor Youngkin, visit BlackHistoryIsAmericanHistory.org or tweet using #BlackHistoryIs.

The Leadership Conference Education Fund builds public will for federal and state policies that promote and protect the civil and human rights of all persons in the United States. The Education Fund’s campaigns empower and mobilize advocates around the country to push for progressive change in the United States. It was founded in 1969 as the education and research arm of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. For more information on The Education Fund, visit www.civilrights.org/edfund/.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s largest and foremost grassroots civil rights organization. The mission of the NAACP is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons. Members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights and social justice in their communities. You can read more about the NAACP’s work by visiting www.naacp.org.

People For the American Way is a progressive advocacy organization founded to fight right-wing extremism and build a democratic society that implements the ideals of freedom, equality, opportunity and justice for all. We encourage civic participation, defend fundamental rights, and fight to dismantle systemic barriers to equitable opportunity. Learn more: http://www.pfaw.org