The Proviso Township High School District 209 board voted to adopt a Black history textbook and curriculum at the June 8 meeting. The recommendation to contract with Black History 365 (BH 365) for a total cost of $303,780 for textbooks and digital licenses was presented by Dr. Nicole Howard, assistant superintendent of academics and student services.

An advisory council formed in February 2021, comprised of board members, community representation, administrators and teachers, was charged with “making program, curriculum, and policy recommendations to address issues of inequity,” according to an action item on the meeting agenda.

The advisory council came up with a list of what they wanted to see in a textbook.

“They want our students to understand that there is a huge impact with Black people, civilization and culture over time,” said Howard during the meeting. “It’s not just about slavery. We want to reframe that discourse. And we want to make sure they understand that Black history did not start here.”

Understanding the structural impact of bias and discrimination and a thorough history from multiple perspectives with real stories were other aspects of Black history that the council listed as important.

The council also wanted a “variety of thought and perspective, including research and evidence-based information,” a sensitive and modern collection of photos, and questions to provoke and encourage independent thinking to promote “appropriate and meaningful social action.”

According to Howard’s presentation during the meeting, BH 365’s documentation of Black history begins in ancient Africa and continues to modern events and movements.

Not only does BH 365 come with a textbook, but the company also provides an eBook/app and has exclusive access to thousands of documents and artifacts from the Freeman Institute Black History collection, with pieces dating back to 1553, according to Howard.

Another feature Howard said the council liked is BH 365’s “Elephant Experience,” a chance for students to stop on important topics and get more deeply engaged.

“This is what as an educator really excited me,” Howard said. “With the Elephant Experience, the students have these places in the curriculum where they stop, they really think about what they just learned and how they can apply that to their lives. It sets up the engagement process … And that’s what’s really going to get all of our students, whether they’re Black or Brown or white, really involved in the conversation.”

The council took student engagement even farther, securing a dual-credit partnership through Dominican University. Seeking advice from experts in the field led them to Dr. Nkuzi Nnam, director of Black World Studies at Dominican University.

Nnam has offered D209 students the opportunity for a dual credit Black history course called Africa and African American Thought through Dominican University. Six teachers, said Howard, will be training with Nnam, and groups of students are slated to take the dual-credit course in the fall and spring.

Opportunities for students don’t end there. BH 365 itself has a student advisory committee, and according to Howard offered the chance for Proviso students to serve on that committee.

“[BH 365] includes an advisory board of prominent African Americans who contribute to the content of the courses, and they have a student advisory board, and they contribute to the ongoing updates to it. And they said that we can have a couple of spots for our Proviso students on their board as well,” Howard said during the meeting.

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