AUGUSTA — Next year, juniors and seniors at Cony High School will have the option to take a new course that focuses on African-American history.

The idea for the class was proposed at the Augusta school board’s Dec. 9 Curriculum and Education Committee meeting, and approved by the full board Wednesday. The class was noted Wednesday at being timely, according to the class description, considering “the state of the world today.”

“A heightened awareness of racial injustice where political and social divisions are as great as they have ever been, it seems appropriate to have a class that gives historical context to the African-American community,” stated the class description.

The class will be taught by T.J. Maines, who teaches U.S. history and sociology at Cony High School; he previously taught for 21 years at the middle school level. His wife teaches eighth grade English at Cony Middle School.

Maines thinks that there is no better time than now to introduce the class to Cony High School students.

“It’s so much more than Martin Luther King,” he said. “…You have to understand Black America to know the history of the country.”

The class is one that he has been interested in teaching for a while. Maines has a degree in African-American studies from Colby College, along with his history degree.

During the Black Lives Matter Movement, he read up on little-known historical events to the typical American, including the Black Wall Street Massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and decided that he could dedicate a class on Black history to better educate students.

Maines pointed out there is so much history in the country that he often has to skip over some parts in order to fit the class into a semester.

“Since I’ve been teaching, I’ve always had Civil Rights units and students have always responded really well to it,” he said. “There’s a sense of fairness with middle and high school kids, and so much of Black history hasn’t been fair.

“I think they can resonate with that,” Maines added.

The class will start by exploring the history of the different kingdoms in Africa that were around at the start of American history. Through that, he will touch on the Triangle Trade and slavery, eventually making his way up to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the Black Lives Matter Movement.

With no formal textbook, Maines has gotten help designing the class from one of his former Colby professors. He also plans to use a combination of movies, guest speakers and accessible documents for reading and study material. He mentioned the New York Times’s “The 1617 Project” as something he was going to consider as well.

The class will be half a credit, meaning that it will only be a quarter of a semester long. Typically, classes at Cony last two quarters. It will likely have U.S. History as a pre-requisite.

“I want kids to understand better that why in culture things are the way that they are, whether it’s a Black and white dynamic, or why there are more police in a Black community and understand fully where that comes from,” Maines said. “Knowledge is power and the more that they know, the more informed decisions they can make on things.”


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