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Bill requiring Black history and culture lessons in grades 5-8 heads to Governor's desk

Currently, Tennessee law says Black history "should" be included in curricula as determined by local school boards. This law would require it for grades 5-8.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill that would require schools to include lessons on Black history and culture in grades five through eight passed in the Tennessee House in early April with near-unanimous support.

House lawmakers voted 80 to 2 in favor of passing an amended version of House Bill 2106, with two lawmakers present who didn't vote. Representatives Kelly Keisling (R-Byrdstown) and Paul Sherrell (R-Sparta) were the two lone nay votes, with Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport) and Iris Rudder (R-Winchester) not voting.

The bill, as amended, was sponsored by Rep. Yusuf Hakeem (D-Chattanooga), with Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) sponsoring the Senate version of the bill. It would amend an existing Tennessee code that guides school systems in the state to include curricula covering Black history and culture.

Currently, that state code says schools "should" include Black history and culture lessons "at some appropriate grade level or levels, as determined by the local board of education." If passed into law, this bill would change the language to "require" each local education agency to provide a course of instruction on Black history and culture to students in grades five through eight. 

Two amendments to the bill were approved before the House voted to pass it. The first restored responsibility to the State Board of Education instead of the Tennessee Department of Education to ensure K-12 schools included multicultural diversity when developing frameworks of curricula. The second pushed the bill's effective start date back to July 2025. 

“These are crucial times in transitional years for our students,” Hakeem said. “So it is crucial that they learn about and explore Black history at an age where they can digest the information.”

It also passed the Senate and was sent to Governor Bill Lee's desk for his signature on April 19.

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