Two University of Maryland Eastern Shore history professors are assisting Delaware State University colleagues in crafting recommendations to expand how U.S. history is taught in “First State” public schools.
Dr. Marshall F. Stevenson Jr., dean of UMES’ School of Education, Social Sciences and the Arts, and Dr. Arlisha R. Norwood are among 10 educators working to identify specific ways Delaware should incorporate a broader narrative of Black history in the curriculum.
“It’s making history multi-racial,” Norwood said. “We’re talking about capturing historical interpretations of events.”
Del State secured a $230,000 state grant this past fall to review and suggest revisions to history education taught in the eighth and 11th grades to comply with a Delaware law enacted earlier in 2021.
The project currently is headed by Del State’s Dr. Niklas Robinson, an associate history professor and acting chairman of the Dover institution’s history, political science and philosophy department.
“We’re not designing a new curriculum, or a delivery system, or a learning system,” said Robinson, who grew up in Cambridge, Md. “We’re trying to identify voids in the subject matter, and make suggestions on how to fill them.”
Delaware’s new law came about, Robinson said, in response to a grassroots movement by high school and college students who lobbied state lawmakers to support a formal review and an update of the history curriculum. Robinson said there was broad consensus that important elements of the contributions of Blacks to American history were missing.
Two working groups currently are focused on shaping recommendations that address the abolition of slavery and the “Lost Cause,” short-hand for “an interpretation of the Civil War … that attempts to preserve the honor of the South by casting the Confederate defeat in the best possible light,” according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. The first reports on those topics are due Feb. 1 to Delaware’s state education department.
Del State – UMES collaborators will continue working throughout the spring, guided by the law directing public school districts and charter schools to follow a K-12 curriculum “that shall provide instruction on Black history,” including:
Norwood, an assistant professor of history whose research focus is 19th century African American history with an emphasis on slavery, freedom and gender, will contribute input to the Delaware project on content as well as help write the report that will go to the state agency.
“I’m hopeful we’ll be able to make (recommendations for) a more inclusive curriculum,” Norwood said. “Until students see themselves in history, they’ll never love, or appreciate it.”
Stevenson, a UMES history professor, will serve as a reviewer of changes recommended by the working groups. Prior to joining the UMES faculty, Stevenson was a Delaware State administrator.
Stevenson and Robinson said in separate interviews they hope the initiative in Delaware might emerge as a model or template for other states to follow. The goal is to have the expanded curriculum for eighth-graders ready for deliver this coming fall.