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African American History Education Commission

African American History Education Commission

On August 24th Governor Ralph Northam signed Executive Order Thirty Nine establishing the Commission on African American History Education. The Governor charged the group with reviewing Virginia’s history standards, and the instructional practices, content, and resources currently used to teach African American history in the Commonwealth; and with examining and make recommendations on the professional development supports needed to equip all teachers for culturally competent instruction.

The history of African Americans in Virginia, and our nation, is difficult, complex, and often untold. We should strive to make sure every Virginia student has a robust understanding of this important history and its continuous influence on our communities today. A review of this content, instructional practices, and resources currently used to teach African American history in the Commonwealth will help ensure that every graduate enters adult life with comprehensive understanding of the African American voices that contribute to the story of our nation and our Commonwealth.

Governor Ralph S. Northam
August 24, 2019

Final Report

On August 31, 2020 the Commission presented their final report to the Governor for improving the way African American history is taught in Virginia schools, including but not limited to:

  1. Making recommendations and technical edits for enriched standards related to African American history;
  2. Identifying how the standards can be organized and improved to ensure that African American history is a cohesive part of the teaching of all history;
  3. Revising of the full history and social studies standards review process to be more inclusive of diverse perspectives; and
  4. Recommending the addition of professional development and instructional supports to equip all educators to create and sustain culturally responsive pedagogy and gain appropriate foundational knowledge in African American history.

When implemented, the Commission’s recommendations will enable all Virginia students and educators to develop a comprehensive understanding of the African American voices that contribute to Virginia’s story.

Executive Order 39 indicated a July 1 due date for the Commission's report, but the deadline was extended to September 1 due to COVID-19 related delays. 

Members of the Commission

  • Derrick P. Alridge of Charlottesville, Professor of Education and Director of the Center for Race and Public Education in the South, Curry School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
  • Rosa S. Atkins of Charlottesville, Superintendent, Charlottesville City Schools
  • Edward Ayers of Richmond, Professor of the Humanities, University of Richmond
  • Jarvis E. Bailey of Fredericksburg, High School Administrator, Westmoreland County Public Schools and School Board Member, Fredericksburg City
  • Maria D. Burgos of Prince William County, Supervisor of Global Learning and Culturally Responsive Instruction, Prince William County Public Schools
  • Christy S. Coleman of Chesterfield, CEO, American Civil War Museum
  • Robert N. Corley, III of Chesterfield, Associate Vice-Provost for Academic Affairs and Project Director, The Wallace Foundation’s University Principal Preparation Initiative, Virginia State University
  • Pamela Croom of Hampton, President-Elect, Virginia PTA
  • Andrew P. Daire of Moseley, Dean of the School of Education, Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Crystal DeLong of Bedford, Teacher, Liberty High School, Bedford County Public Schools
  • Beau Dickenson of Harrisonburg, President, Virginia Social Studies Leaders Consortium and Social Studies Supervisor, Rockingham County Public Schools
  • Crystal M. Edwards of Lynchburg, Superintendent, Lynchburg City Schools
  • Anne Marie Evans of Fluvanna County, Director of Education and Outreach–New American History, University of Richmond
  • Patricia H. Fisher of Portsmouth, Immediate Past Superintendent (Interim), Portsmouth Public Schools (Ret.) and Educational Consultant
  • Rodney Jordan of Norfolk, Co-Chair, Virginia School Boards Association Task Force on Students and Schools in Challenging Environments and School Board Member, Norfolk City
  • James F. Lane of Chesterfield, Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • John K. Lee of Raleigh, Professor, North Carolina State University
  • Makya Renée Little of Woodbridge, Parent Advocate and Florida A&M University Alumnus
  • Monica Manns of Henrico, Director of Equity and Diversity, Henrico County Public Schools
  • Basil Marin of Atlanta, Assistant Principal, Chamblee High School, DeKalb County Schools
  • Tyrone Nelson of Henrico County, Chairman, Henrico County Board of Supervisors and Pastor, Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church of Richmond
  • Cassandra L. Newby-Alexander of Chesapeake, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Professor of History, Norfolk State University
  • The Honorable Atif Qarni of Prince William, Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Gloria Randolph-King of Roanoke, Retired Roanoke City Public Schools Administrator
  • Alice Reilly of Alexandria, Educator, George Mason University
  • Rodney Robinson of Richmond, 2019 National Teacher of the Year
  • Chris Van Tassell of Richmond, Program Coordinator and Educator, Virginia Museum of History & Culture
  • Vanessa D. Thaxton-Ward of Hampton, Director, Hampton University Museum
  • Pastor Michelle C. Thomas of Loudoun County, Founder and CEO, Loudoun Freedom Center and President, NAACP Loudoun Branch
  • Cainan Townsend of Farmville, Director of Education, Robert Russa Moton Museum
  • Dietra Trent of Halifax, Chief of Staff, George Mason University
  • Robert C. Watson of Williamsburg, Assistant Professor of History, Hampton University
  • William E. White of Williamsburg, Visiting Distinguished Scholar, Christopher Newport University
  • Renita S. Williams of Chesapeake, Secondary Social Studies Instructional Supervisor, Newport News Public Schools
  • Betty Jean Wolfe of Roanoke, President, Evaluative Design, Inc.
  • Jonathan C. Zur of Richmond, President and CEO, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities

Governor Ralph Northam’s Commission on African American History Education Seeks Input

The African American History Education Commission is seeking community input during a series of public listening sessions as it examines how to best strengthen the Virginia history standards, as well as African American history education in classrooms across the commonwealth.

The dates and locations of the February public listening sessions are:

Tuesday, February 11, 2020 - Roanoke

Harrison Museum of African American Culture
1 Market Square SE #2,
Roanoke, VA 24011
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Will include a panel of Educators

Wednesday, February 12, 2020 - Richmond

Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia
122 W Leigh St,
Richmond, VA 23220
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Will include a panel of Parents and Stakeholder Organizations

Wednesday, March 11, 2020 - Norfolk

Norfolk State University
Nursing and General Education Building
Room 101
700 Park Ave,
Norfolk, VA 23504
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

POSTPONED - Woodbridge

Woodbridge Middle School
Prince William County Public Schools
2201 York Dr,
Woodbridge, VA 22191
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.  

POSTPONED - Danville

J.M Langston High School
Danville Public Schools
228 Cleveland St,
Danville, VA 24541
6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Will include a panel of Students

Listening sessions will begin at 6 p.m. with a moderated panel discussion, facilitated by the members of the Commission. Each panel is intended to hear the unique perspectives of individual, yet representative, stakeholder groups through authentic dialogue.

Panels will be followed by a public comment portion, in which speakers will have three minutes to address the commission. Public commenting is open to all members of the public, regardless of the stakeholder group individuals are associated with. 

If you are unable to attend one of the listening sessions above, and wish to provide your insight to the Commission, please use the following link:

Related Press Releases

Staff Contact

Tori Noles
Special Assistant to the Secretary of Education  

Public Comment

Public feedback for the Work Group can also be sent to to be relayed to Commission members.