Campus News

New center to explore Black history, racial literacy

Concept of Black history, silohuettes of heads made of paper in various shades of brown.


Published February 1, 2022

LaGarret King.
“History is not about patriotism. History is about helping us understand our humanity. That’s the good, the bad and the indifferent. ”
LaGarrett King, associate professor of social studies education
Graduate School of Education

UB will work to improve how Black history and race are taught and learned in schools around the world through the new UB Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education.

The center, founded and directed by renowned scholar of Black history education LaGarrett King, will use research, teacher professional development, networking and advocacy to answer the enduring question: What is Black history education?

King joined the Graduate School of Education faculty this month as an associate professor of social studies education. He was previously the Isabella Wade Lyda and Paul Lyda Professor of Education at the University of Missouri. Prior to King’s move to UB, he launched a similar center at the University of Missouri, the Carter Center for K-12 Black History Education.

The UB center will also create a Teaching Black History Certificate program for teachers and educators to use as endorsements for instructing history classes in their school districts.

“History is not about patriotism. History is about helping us understand our humanity. That’s the good, the bad and the indifferent,” King explains. “The problem is our U.S. history curriculum dehumanizes those who are people of color. If we understand notions of Black history, then maybe our society will understand Black people.

“I envision the Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education as a very prominent space where K-12 educators, policymakers, teachers and other university personnel come to help us understand the effectiveness of how we should approach notions of Black history education, as well as try to understand the nuances of race and racial literacy,” he says.

Programming redefines Black history education

Throughout the spring semester, the center will hold a range of programs to advance the understanding of Black history and race, including history clubs, teacher professional development and community learning labs.

During February, the center will host Black History Nerds Saturday School, a virtual, weekly professional development series for pre-K-12 teachers that welcomes speakers from across the nation to discuss Black history and race. The series is also open to the public. Discussion topics include:

  • “The Art of Black Teaching” by Jarvis Givens, Harvard University; Feb. 5, 11 a.m. to noon.
  • “Historical Literacy as Racial Literacy” by Yolanda Sealy-Ruiz, Columbia University; Feb. 12, 11 a.m. to noon.
  • “Teaching Black History to White People” by Leonard Moore, University of Texas at Austin; Feb. 19, 11 a.m. to noon.
  • “The Hill Project, a Black Studies Curriculum” by Gholdy Muhammad, University of Illinois Chicago; Feb. 26, 11-11:45 a.m.

The center’s signature event is the Teaching Black History Conference, which brings together hundreds of educators from around the globe to learn the curricular and instructional practices surrounding Black history education. The theme for the upcoming fifth conference is Mother Africa. The event is scheduled from July 22-24.

“You can't teach Black history without teaching about Africa,” says King. “The first time that schoolchildren learn about Black people is through enslavement. We miss out on thousands of years of history. Black people throughout history have never just been simply oppressed. If we look at understanding them as different ethnic groups and cultures in Africa, then you get to understand their humanity.”

More information, as well as additional events, can be found on the UB Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education website. Several of the events are free and open to the public.

Award-winning scholar

King’s research examines the teaching and learning of Black history in schools and society, and the critical theories of race, teacher education and curriculum history. He has published four books and more than 60 academic articles and book chapters on Black history and race.

King’s upcoming book, “Teaching Enslavement in American History,” is scheduled for publication in February. He co-authored the book with Chara Bohan and Robert Baker, both faculty members at Georgia State University.

He has received numerous awards, including the Emerging Scholar Award from the Comparative and International Education Society’s African Diaspora Special Interest Group.

King received a doctorate in curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas at Austin, and a bachelor’s degree in secondary social studies education from Louisiana State University.