Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Terms of Use

© 2022 Ruby Schlaker. This work is freely available courtesy of the author. It may be used under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license. For all other uses, please contact the copyright holder.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


History Department, Educational Studies Department

First Advisor

Robert Weinberg

Second Advisor

Lisa Smulyan


In February 2005, the School Reform Commission of the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) convened and unanimously passed the “Resolution for African American Studies.” The resolution made Philadelphia the first and only district in the United States to mandate a year-long, African American history course as a graduation requirement. In the years since 2005, district-level mandates and requirements to, in some capacity, incorporate African American history into curricula have proliferated nationwide. Still, to date, Philadelphia is the only school district in the nation with a mandate to teach African American history (AAH) through the specific policy mechanism of a mandated, year-long course required for graduation.1 Scholars of Educational Studies have crucially historicized the 2005 African American history mandate in its local, Philadelphia context. In contributing to this work, this paper undertakes a historiographical departure by exploring the ways in which ideologies proffered by the national-level culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s—specifically as they were fought on the terrain of teaching history—interacted with and were reflected in the Philadelphia context of the 2005 AAH mandate in question. Following an extensive review of the journalistic coverage of the context in which the mandate was implemented, I analyze a journalistic account that I consider representative of the interacting national-level culture wars and the Philadelphia context. As such, this paper seeks to answer the following questions: In what ways does the local, early 2000s, Philadelphia context filter the larger national-historical context of the culture wars of the 1980s and 1990s? What does this reveal about the historical factors at play surrounding the 2005 origination of the only mandated, year-long course required for graduation in a public school district in the nation today?