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Marquette Messenger

The news site of Marquette High School

Marquette Messenger

The news site of Marquette High School

Marquette Messenger

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In Defense of Black Literature

Media by Emily Chien
Shelly Justin’s Black Literature class creates posters for Black History Month. Throughout the semester, the students will read literature written by Black authors. A similar class is the topic of controversy in the Francis Howell School District.

Francis Howell North High School students organized a walk-out on Thursday, Jan. 18, in response to proposed changes to the curriculum of their Black Literature course.

Their school board voted to remove the course from the Francis Howell School District on Thursday, Dec. 21. This decision was quickly reversed, with a statement released stating the course’s curriculum would be more “politically neutral” going forward.

This is certainly not the first time a course focusing on the Black experience has received significant pushback. In 2023, an AP African American Studies course was outright banned in Florida. The general cause for these occurrences is a fear that such classes could evoke an “agenda” or come off as too politically biased.

Generalizing the curriculum of Black Literature as “political” is deeply flawed, and attempting to remove or change it ultimately does more harm than good.

Black Literature is essential to highlighting a part of the Black experience that is rarely focused on. Discussions regarding Black history are often about racial discrimination, the civil rights movement and slavery – but rarely are works created by Black writers, artists, authors and overall creatives given a large enough spotlight.

Having a class that focuses on those lesser-known aspects is not only beneficial to Black students but also allows even non-Black students to expand their cultural awareness by teaching a positive aspect of Black culture.

Shelly Justin, language arts teacher, has taught the Black Literature class at MHS since it was first proposed in 2021 and said she is greatly upset by Francis Howell’s decision. She said the course allows Black students to read about characters who “look like them.”

“Our Black students in this district don’t really get to see the point of view from people like them often enough,” Justin said.

Justin said she is deeply confused by Francis Howell’s opposition to the “activist” aspect of the course.

“Not all activism is a form of outcry,” Justin said. “It’s just trying to make a change for the better.”

While the addition of the course to MHS curriculum may encourage students to stand against racial discrimination, that does not necessarily mean it is attempting to force a political statement or spark protest.

Even the Francis Howell students’ walk-out is not intended to arouse any upheaval or conflict – it is merely the students speaking out about their understandable frustration at the district’s potentially harmful policies and failure to understand what is best for them.

The volume of their voices should make it clear enough: Black Literature is important and should not be changed because people are hesitant to discuss what needs to be discussed.

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About the Contributors
Emily Chien
Emily Chien, A&E Editor
Emily Chien, junior, is the Arts and Entertainment Editor for the Marquette Messenger. Besides newspaper, she is a part of Key Club, RSD Lives, DEI, and more. Outside of school she loves creative writing, art, dance, and hanging out with friends.
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