Over 200 Alabama high school students staged a walkout on Wednesday (February 8) in protest of officials allegedly directing them to omit certain monumental events from an upcoming Black History Month program because it made administrators “uncomfortable.”
According to WBMA-TV, students at Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa said they were told to leave out topics of slavery and the civil rights movement in their peer-led Black History Month program set for February 22.
Hillcrest students were ordered to not “talk about slavery and civil rights because one of our administrators felt uncomfortable,” J’Niyah Suttles, a Black History Month Program board member who participated in Wednesday’s walkout, said.
“My protector from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. — for you to tell me I can’t talk about something that is dealing with my culture is very disturbing, it’s very confusing,” Suttles added.
In a statement, Tuscaloosa County Superintendent Dr. Keri Johnson denied the allegations that administrators told the students to water down the program.
“It is not true that faculty or staff told students that slavery or the civil rights movement could not be part of the program,” Johnson said. “When several community members heard this and contacted Hillcrest High administration out of concern, administration explained to them that this was false information that was circulating.”
Johnson said she supports the students’ rights to peacefully protest.
“A number of our Hillcrest High students have concerns about the culture within their school. We care deeply about our students, and it is important that their concerns are heard. We are putting together a plan to make sure our students feel heard so that we know the right steps to put in place to ensure all students know that they are valued,” she said.
Hillcrest senior Jada Holt, however, has questions about why she was allegedly asked to censor her culture.
“Why am I being censored about my culture, something that is rooted in me? Why can’t I talk about it? History is history and it’s already been made, and it can’t be erased,” Holt said.
Lisa Young, the president of the Tuscaloosa Branch of the NAACP, denounced the alleged incident.
“I don’t know how you can talk about Black history in this country without talking about slavery or the civil rights movement,” Young said.
The NAACP branch president noted that she requested a meeting with Johnson but hasn’t been given a date.