Governor Dan McKee, joined by Representative Anastasia Williams, Senator Tiara Mack, Executive Director of the Providence Preservation Society Brent Runyon, and Managing Director of the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society Theresa Guzman Stokes, today ceremonially signed into law legislation (2021-H 5697aa / 2021-S 0458A) that requires public K-12 institutions to teach a comprehensive African history and heritage curriculum developed by Rhode Island historical and academic institutions.
“The inclusion of African heritage and history in Rhode Island curricula is long overdue,” said Governor Dan McKee. “I hope that Rhode Island will lead the nation in the effort to educate our young people on a full scope of history, including teaching students about events that took place right where they live. I’d like to thank the bill sponsors for their tenacity in passing this bill and the advocates who helped get this over the finish line.”
“As we have witnessed over the past year, the connections that hold our society together are fragile, but these connections can become strong through respect, compassion, and most importantly, truth,” said Rep. Anastasia P. Williams (D-Dist. 9, Providence). “Knowing this truth is essential to a united society and I am very happy that these lessons will finally be presented to our students, and adults as well, so that they may go forth into the world truly knowing the many parts of our society that work for everyone and that sadly, currently there are still too many remaining caught in a cycle of intolerance and injustice. And hopefully, our students and adults will use this knowledge to create a better society, a society that actually values the life and dignity of every Rhode Islander and beyond, regardless of our differences. This has been my hope, to bring our state’s true and honest history to light, and this bill’s passage makes that dream one step closer to reality.”
“Over the past year, I have witnessed our youth courageously stand up for what is right and this curriculum will further supply them with the knowledge to create a just and equitable world that embraces blackness and all other diverse aspects of our society,” said Sen. Tiara Mack (D-Dist. 6, Providence). “Through this, I have an abundance of hope for our future and this curriculum will give our next generations the blueprint to build this equitable, tolerant and respectful world and a society that celebrates its blackness not only in the past and the present, but into the future.”
The bill signing ceremony took place at the Old Brick Schoolhouse in Providence, amidst a celebration hosted by the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society and the Providence Preservation Society. Dating back to 1769, the site is one of the earliest surviving brick schoolhouses in the country and the first school for African heritage children fully supported by the City of Providence.