Black History Month

‘Disappointing': Contest Honoring Black Virginians Not Offered This Year

The contest letting students statewide suggest new historical markers recognizing the accomplishments of Black residents isn't happening this year

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A Virginia contest let K-12 students statewide suggest new historical markers to recognize the accomplishments of Black residents, but new Gov. Glenn Youngkin's administration won't offer the program this year.

The Black History Month program was launched two years ago by Gov. Ralph Northam and the Department of Education to help uncover and recognize untold stories of historical Black figures. Historical markers like one in Mt. Vernon honoring Ona Judge, an enslaved woman who escaped George Washington's plantation, can be found throughout Virginia.

But the contest has taken a halt this year, and while Gov. Youngkin's administration issued a proclamation recognizing February as Black History Month, it has not released any efforts to bring the contest back.

The contest's description is still posted on the new Education Secretary's website, but the details have not been updated and still refer to the Northam administration. A representative from the Department of Historical Resources who operated the contest alongside the Department of Education told News4 that they haven't heard anything regarding the contest, and with February nearly over, they assume that it will not be happening.

This change has upset people across Fairfax County, where students' participation in the contest has led to the unveiling of several new markers. County school board member Karl Frisch voiced his concerns. "I’m afraid this is part of a concerning pattern demonstrating Gov. Youngkin’s unwillingness to encourage students to engage in critical thinking and to learn about our complicated past," he said. "Our students certainly deserve better."

Fairfax County and the school board have announced that they will have their own historical markers contest this year focusing on African American stories and are planning to expand to include other underrepresented groups in the future.

"We want to know all of the untold stories," Frisch said. "All of the uncovered history that could be found here."

The deadline for the new Fairfax County contest is at the end of March.

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