October 18, 2017
Former State Sen James Hargrett and President of NAACP Hillsborough Branch, Yvette Lewis
Middleton High School was the site for the Hillsborough County Public School to announce the recognition of the exemplary status by the Florida Department of Education. The status was reached after the school district committed to infuse the teaching of African American history throughout the k-12 curriculum.
The NAACP of Hillsborough County began over 25 years ago urging and pushing the school district to include African American history in the curriculum. Dr Arless Kubon, Dr. Sam Wright, and others pushed the district toward this goal even when it looked as if it would never happen.
The superintendent of the district, Jeff Eakins, talked about the celebration as a culmination of a three-year process to earn Exemplary Status for the Teaching of African-American History. Dr. Sam Wright reminded the audience that this process was much longer and would never have happened had it not been for the diligent work of the community and the NAACP chapter of Hillsborough County.
State law mandates certain expectations for history classes, including African-American history, but Hillsborough County “goes well above and beyond,” said Superintendent Jeff Eakins. “It’s part of the curriculum at every grade level at every school. This ensures that everyone learns more about African and African-American history and culture.”
Yvette Lewis, president of the Hillsborough Branch of NAACP, said that the African American history was important because if you do not know where you came from then it make if difficult to know where you can go. “It is important that we look back as a foundation of moving forward,” Lewis said.
The award was presented at Middleton High School because it was the first black school in Tampa. It started in 1934. The school has a history corner and urged its alumni to share some of the memories that made the school great.
Former state Sen. James Hargrett Jr. is a Middleton graduate: “I owe just about everything I ever accomplished to the training I get here at Middleton.” Hargrett said his father taught at Middleton and so did his mother. His mother is 101 years old now and has all of her faculty and had fond memories of the school. Hargrett said while he learned plenty of things at Middleton before he graduated, African-American history wasn’t among them.
Dr. Patrick Coggins, from Stetson University, has been a consultant with the district during the project. Dr. Coffins talked about the early days of working toward the inclusion of African American history into the curriculum. In July of 2016, Dr. Coggins trained more than 300 representatives from all schools in the district.