Much to learn in Black History Month

Published 6:33 pm Tuesday, February 15, 2022

As Virginia grapples with the proper role of public schools in conversations about race and social justice, one thing both sides of the controversy profess to agree on is the need for thorough, unvarnished instruction on history.

There’s no better time to recommit to that ideal than during Black History Month, one of the most widely celebrated observances in the United States, and with good reason. It is an important opportunity to learn, remember and reflect on the vital contributions that have been made by African Americans to all aspects of this community, commonwealth and nation — knowledge that too often has been obfuscated, whitewashed or simply not taught at all.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who has taken heat from many for his opposition to “divisive” theories in academia, issued a Black History Month proclamation last week that acknowledged “tragic stories of cruelty rooted in bias and bigotry” while celebrating the countless African Americans who have risen above social, political and economic barriers to succeed personally and contribute immensely to the American fabric.

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In a similar spirit, The Smithfield Times’ second annual Black History Month essay contest asks high school students in Isle of Wight and Surry to write about historical lessons that they believe should be taught more thoroughly in the classroom. Adults, especially those who have very strong opinions on the topic, would be wise to listen more to students, whose voices have been largely missing from the shrill political debates over equity and inclusion.

Public, private and homeschooled students in grades 9-12 are invited to submit essays that address the question, “What lessons from Black History should be taught more fully in today’s classrooms?”

A $100 cash prize will be awarded for the winning essay, which will be published in The Smithfield Times. Essays of up to 350 words should be submitted by email to and include the author’s name, school, grade, email address and parents’ names.

We look forward to reading the entries, which should be emailed by Feb. 25.