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…All our terrible and beautiful history [can seem like it binds us down, that we are] doomed to an unimaginable unreality. I prefer to believe that the day is coming when we will tell the truth about it – and ourselves. On that day…we can call ourselves free men.  ~James Baldwin

America has a complicated past, with racial inequality being at the heart of much of the nation’s “hard history,” from the enslavement of millions of black people, to racial subordination and violence throughout Reconstruction, Jim Crow and beyond. As David Blight wisely noted, “Past and present are always connected in any people’s history; they flow into one another, often in unseen ways, but also in moments of shock and recognition. When it comes to issues of race and the legacies of slavery in America, we are frequently reminded of these truths.” And while individuals and groups have resisted and challenged racist laws, structures, and practices throughout history and into the present, a legacy of inequality persists – the realities of which are often avoided in the K-12 classroom. Carolina K-12 believes that it is essential that teachers learn, openly discuss and responsibly teach about our nation’s shared “hard history” to ensure students understand the implications of our past, their direct connections to our present, and are empowered to address the challenges of the future. To support North Carolina’s dedicated K-12 scholars seeking to bravely disrupt the simplistic narratives and myths often promoted in textbooks and classic history education, Carolina K-12 launched the “Teaching Hard History” initiative in 2018. Based upon the recommendations of the seminal report by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching the Hard History of American Slavery, Carolina K-12 has worked with various community partners to provide teachers with FREE, high quality and interactive workshops that provide a mixture of vetted historical content, effective pedagogical strategies, and protective measures to employee for addressing “hard history” and potentially controversial current events in the classroom.

Since race (though often ignored in K-12 curriculum) is central to exploring American history, culture, and modern issues, providing teachers with time to explore the complicated subjects of identity, race, racism, and white advantage – as well as the ways these topics intersect with the history of inequity in education – is equally critical to our offerings. In a time when everything, from discussions of our past to debates of our present, feels particularly fraught with discomfort and controversy, attending educators are also provided the opportunity to explore their challenges and fears of teaching in today’s often polarized classrooms, while building relationships with and listening to the lived experiences of the diverse educators from all across the state that fill each cohort.

“Teaching Hard History” events challenge participants to critically examine and reconsider difficult aspects of our past and present while gaining the understanding of the importance of bravely engaging in honest conversation and comprehensive teaching about history and its lasting legacies. According to the Equal Justice Initiative, “Avoiding honest conversation about history has undermined our ability to build a nation where racial justice can be achieved. Only by telling the truth about the age of racial terror and collectively reflecting on this period and its legacy can we hope that our present-day conversations about racial exclusion and inequality – and any policies designed to address these issues – will be accurate, thoughtful, and informed.”

The initiative includes:

  • Three-day intensive workshops offered free of charge to currently practicing educators, with single-occupancy hotel accommodations and meals included (Click here to see a sample of a past agenda.)
    • Due to COVID, the next live three-day workshop is scheduled to take place in the summer of 2021. E-mail CarolinaK12@unc.edu to be added to our e-newsletter which provides updates of future offerings.
  • Online/virtual sessions that focus on “hidden” histories and include discussion on how to teach difficult and potentially controversial topics in the classroom. See below to access previous programs, and e-mail CarolinaK12@unc.edu to be added to our e-newsletter which provides updates of future offerings.
  • An online teacher community for sharing resources, having conversations, and supporting one another in this critical work. Access is only available to educators who have previously participated in a “Teaching Hard History” workshop.

*** CEUs are provided for all programming, including virtual programs. Click here for more information on requesting CEUs for virtual programming.

For additional information, please contact Christie Norris (cnorris@unc.edu).

Recordings of Teaching Hard History Virtual Programs

History Repeats Itself: Ahmaud Arbery and Racism in 2020 (includes recorded program and a link to anti-racism resources for both teachers and the general public).

TEACHING HARD HISTORY: From 1770 to 2020: Race, Revolt and Resistance (includes a recording of this event and teaching resources)

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CPH & Carolina K-12 Statements Regarding the Murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, George Floyd, and Other Black Americans