February in America has become synonymous with Black History month, the 30-day period when mainstream media make a concerted effort to highlight illustrious Americans whose achievements, successes and breakthroughs have been diminished or forgotten.
Rep. Derek Mallow, our first-term lawmaker representing District 163 in Savannah, wants that to change. He, also with four other state House legislators have sponsored a resolution calling for the Georgia Department of Education to create a textbook that would highlight African American achievements from ancient civilizations to current day. And make that part of Georgia’s public school standard curriculum.
“We have a month in February to learn about Black history, but it’s not enough time to have your history told. Or have any history told. I think it’s important that for African Americans to understand that our history didn’t just start at the bottom of slave ships,” Mallow told The Current.
The bill has the backing of senior Democrats, including Rep. Calvin Smyre, the oldest serving House member and most senior Black legislator. It would go a long way to helping Georgians learn about non-white civilizations, as well as recall recent tragedies experienced by Black Georgians that have been dropped from state history books.
It’s part of a wave of legislative action aimed at addressing racial discrimination and historic inequality. One of those – House Bill 17 – would make it against the law for law enforcement agencies to racially profile people and make it mandatory for them to collect data so that Georgians could hold them accountable to that mandate. So far, that effort has only Democratic support at the statehouse.
However, other social justice laws have garnered bipartisan backing, such as the planned repeal of the notorious Civil War-era “citizens’ arrest” law, which was cited last year by the men indicted for killing Ahmaud Arbery.
Gov. Brian Kemp wants to tighten the law to prevent vigilantism. With broad Republican support, the changes are expected to be one of the top civil rights achievements of the legislative session. “I’m elated that this antiquated and outdated law of 1863 is about to be repealed,” said Rep. Carl Gilliard of Savannah, a co-sponsor of the bill. “We can now put an end to Georgia’s past and move Georgia forward toward its future.”
As part of our commitment to social justice reporting, The Current is keeping track of these and other legislative developments at the State House such as moves to expand the state’s $600 million school voucher program. An investigation by The Current last fall revealed severe shortcomings in the program, which had been promised to aid low-income Georgian students but has instead favored children from wealthier families.