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ACES procures grant for civil rights teacher training program in New Haven

August 22nd, 2017



ACES procures grant for civil rights teacher training program in New Haven

By Brian Zahn, bzahn@newhavenregister.com @brizahn on Twitter
Published 8:34 pm, Tuesday, August 22, 2017
online article

NEW HAVEN >> The history included in today’s textbooks can never be the full story.

Area Cooperative Educational Services received a $155,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities next summer to prepare teachers on how to connect recent civil rights movement history to current events.

Next summer, ACES will host a two-week professional development program called “The Long Civil Rights Movement” in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale University.

Thomas Thurston, education director for the Gilder Lehrman Center, said American history education is often flawed in the way it’s thought of in chapters.

“We think of these neat bookends: it began with the refusal to give up a seat and ended when Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis,” Thurston said. “The idea is in American history, we finish that and move onto the Vietnam War.”

Thurston said many of the organizing principles from the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century are still present today.

“If you look at the way here in New Haven there was organizing around the renaming of (Yale University’s) Calhoun College, they used a lot of the same strategies, but I think they, the millennials, improved some things, too,” he said. “They were building coalitions, building alliances between organizations, working within the New Haven community.”

One of the modern-day “improvements,” Thurston sees is how much social activism in the modern day is largely leaderless.

“I think that’s interesting and wonderful and kind of new,” he said.

Thurston said he believes education about the civil rights movement, dating back approximately 150 years to the ratification of the 13th Amendment, is crucial to the way Americans understand current events. Following a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, almost two weeks ago meant to unite factions of the American right wing, where some members of supremacist groups chanted Nazi slogans and displayed Nazi symbols, several statues honoring Confederate figures were either removed by officials or toppled by protesters.

Thurston noted that many of those statues were erected decades after the conclusion of the Civil War, many of them established around the time of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “to legitimize white supremacy.”

Leslie Abbatiello, ACES director of professional development and school improvement services, said she believes it’s important for students to understand how fundamental civil rights history is to American history.

“We’re hoping to help participating educators develop a deeper understanding that civil rights isn’t an event but an integral part of American history,” she said in a statement.

ACES Executive Director Thomas M. Danehy said the history of the civil rights movement continues to play out today.

“Civil rights continues to be a major issue,” Danehy said in a statement. “Given what is happening in the world today and in our own communities, we need to be ever more vigilant in the equal rights of all citizens. By engaging teachers nationally, we hope to be able to have a widespread, positive impact on raising awareness to and engagement with civil rights. This initiative will engage participants in connecting the historical context of the Civil Rights Movement to its modern implications.”

The training is open to teachers nationwide from kindergarten to twelfth grade, who will attend daily seminars given by visiting scholars from Yale University, Fairfield University, New York University, Duke University, Eastern Connecticut State University, Central Connecticut State University, and Loyola University. Some of the focuses in the program will be the role of local activism, women, the elderly and the young and artists’ influence on social change, ACES officials said.

“I am proud that ACES was successful in obtaining this grant funding from the NEH and even more so that they have taken on such an important mission with this new professional development course, ‘The Long Civil Rights Movement,’” U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, said in a statement. “We must never lose sight of the hard-fought battles of the Civil Rights Movement. While we have made progress, we must continue fighting for social justice and equality. This program is a unique and important vehicle by which to do just that.”

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