A 2018 study by the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance project found that schools are not adequately nor accurately teaching Slavery and that teachers do not have a sufficient knowledge base or the support from school districts, school boards, or state governments to teach the subject without mischaracterization and sanitizing it for the perceived comfort of students.
As a result, the same report found that students knowledge about slavery in the United States is dismal. For example 58% of graduating high school seniors did not know that slavery was the cause of the Civil War and 78% did not know that protections for slavery were included into the United States founding documents.
While the information is this study was shocking, it only confirmed what the Black Voice Foundation had known for the past two decades - that teaching slavery in Southern California public schools, specifically in the Inland Empire region, was an issue that needed to be addressed.
The Footsteps to Freedom decided to take a unique approach to changing the practice of teaching Slavery in Southern California schools mostly in Riverside and San Bernardino, and Los Angeles counties, some of the largest counties in California, by contracting with the school districts to develop and lead a tour that focuses on educating teachers and school administrators in an immersive, site specific experience throughout the Southern United States and Canada, that emphasizes empathy and inquiry based learning through primary source documents.
In the past twenty five years, thousands of Leaders, teachers, school administrators, and community members have traveled and experienced this learning opportunity through the Footsteps to Freedom Underground Railroad tour.
Prior to joining the California State Assembly, Cheryl Brown (Ret) worked for the San Bernardino County Planning Department. She later served on the County and City Planning Commissions for 17 years. During her tenure as a commissioner, she was elected President of the California County Planning Commissioners Association.
In 1980, Brown and her husband, Hardy, founded Brown Publishing Company to produce a weekly community newspaper, Black Voice News, which focuses on local news in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. The Browns, married for 50 years, have been recognized as the only living publishers to be included in the 175th anniversary of the Black Press of America.
In 2001, Brown and her husband founded California Black Media (CBM), a network of African American media owners across the state of California. CBM has served as a statewide initiative to better inform and educate the African American community about key issues that affect their lives. California Black Media consists of 22 African American newspapers across the state.In addition to her newspaper publishing credentials, Brown's experience as a journalist includes serving as a television talk-show host for 12 years on local access television, KCSB Channel 3, and appearing as a guest on Burden of Proof, MSNBC, the Brian Williams Show and Channel 11 Fox News.
As an active community member, Brown has worked with such groups as the Inland Empire Urban League, NAACP, National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), Kiwanis, Arrowhead United Way, YWCA, San Gorgonio Girl Scout Council and her church, the San Bernardino St. Paul A.M.E. where she serves as a trustee.Brown's professional affiliations include the American Planning Association, California Newspapers Publishers Association, National Newspaper Publishers Association, West Coast Black Publishers Association, San Bernardino City Historical Commission, and the Planning Commissions for the City and County of San Bernardino. Brown also spearheads local events including: Take a Cop to Lunch, Bill Pickett Rodeo, Charles Dickens' Festival and Footsteps to Freedom, the Underground Railroad Field Study Program.
California State University, San Bernardino
Newspaper publisher, philanthropist and community activist Hardy Brown Sr. has been a true patriarch of the Inland Empire's African American community.
The Foundation runs a number of programs to educate and preserve the African American legacy that includes: a college internship program for local students to gain experience working with the Black Voice News, blackvoicenews.com and other related community-based projects; Califest Studio Workshop, which combines education with the arts; and the California Black Media.
The Foundation also operates the Footsteps to Freedom Study Tours which has partnered with several education and federal agencies to lead a unique summer study tour program, in which a group of Inland Empire educators and college students learn first-hand about the incredible courage of the people who sought freedom or who helped others achieve it along the central and lesser-known route of the Underground Railway from Kentucky to Canada. Some 500 area teachers and administrators have taken the course.
The Black Voice News also initiated the "Building Better Communities" program, which works with local companies, organizations and agencies to improve neighborhoods.
In recognition of these and many other achievements, the California State University Board of Trustees and California State University, San Bernardino are proud to confer upon Hardy Brown Sr. the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.