For many years, school curricula have limited their scope to the same Black figures throughout history. While lectures on the legacies of Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman are all important, some educators (and their students) are eager to learn more about underrepresented trailblazers like Lewis Latimer, Marsha P. Johnson, and Max Robinson.

Civil Rights Pioneer Rosa Parks Remembered
Getty Images

While there's a push to add more names to the Black history curriculum, states like Florida, Texas, and Oklahoma have approved or suggested measures to limit race-related language in public schools. Others have also banned books by Black authors that focus on race.

Censorship and CRT: A Cycle of Anxiety

Behind these concerning cases of censorship and bans on books lies the controversy over critical race theory. "It is part of what I would call kind of a cycle of anxiety in which book challengers are driven by concerns and fears about a changing world. And so whatever the issue of the day is, then that usually drives and pushes people to try to remove books," Richard Price, author of the blog Adventures in Censorship, told NPR.

Critical race theory is a 40-plus-year-old academic concept that attempts to inspect systemic racism's impact on U.S. laws. Proponents believe that racism isn't biological; instead, it is a societal creation enforced by hierarchies.

Space Frontiers // Getty Images
Space Frontiers // Getty Images

Since 2020, there have been 783 anti-CRT bills, resolutions, opinion letters, and other measures introduced in a total of 244 local, state, and federal government entities, according to the University of California, Los Angeles' School of Law's CRT Forward project, which tracks attacks on CRT. In 2023, Florida's decisions regarding school curriculum came under fire when its Department of Education claimed the new AP African American Studies course "lacks educational value" and was indoctrinating students—an accusation the College Board deemed slanderous.

Who Highlights Overlooked Black Historical Figures?

Despite the pushback on school curricula, many districts continue to push for Black history. As forgotten names come to the surface, Stacker used news articles and documents to shine a light on 19 groundbreaking Black historical figures whose names might be lost in the fight for more robust Black history education. Read more to find out how the lives of these figures shaped society today.

LOOK: 19 Black historical figures you probably didn't learn about in class

As more states add bans on teaching Black history in classrooms across America, Stacker highlighted 19 underrepresented trailblazers to keep in mind.

Gallery Credit: Stacker

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