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EBONICS TIMELINE

1954 Brown vs. Board of Education results in the holding that segregated educational facilities were “separate and unequal”
January 26, 1973 The term “Ebonics” coined by Robert Williams at “Cognitive and Language Development of the Black Child” Conference.  
1974 Lau vs. Nichols asserts the rights of language minority students, implying that students for whom English is not native define that group.
1979 In the wake of the “Black English trial” California’s state board of education adopted a policy for SEP, titled “Black Language: Proficiency in Standard English for Speakers of Black Language.”  Use of the term “Black Language” in this document opens the door to extreme Afrocentric interpretations of Ebonics which influence Oakland’s future policies and decisions. 
1992 Ernie Smith in consultations with the Oakland school district staunchly advocates Ebonics as something other than English.
December 18, 1996 Oakland, California school board passes a resolution defining Ebonics as the native language of 28,000 African American students within that school district.
December 24, 1996 Secretary Riley of the US Department of Education makes the statement “the Administration’s policy is that Ebonics is a nonstandard form of English and not a foreign language” balking at the proposed bilingual interpretation of Ebonics “a spokesman said Federal Law specifically viewed black English as a form of English, not a separate language eligible for Title VII money.” 
January 1997 Linguists gather in Chicago for their annual LSA conference and issue a resolution intended to affirm the linguistic integrity and legitimacy of African slave descendants.  Their use of the term Ebonics, however, as a synonym for “Black English” is quite different from that of Oakland, who declared that Ebonics was unrelated to English.  The media in reporting the continuing dialogue surrounding this issue were largely unaware of this distinction interminology, leading to more confusion in the ensuing months.
January 14, 1997 Representative Peter King (R-N.Y.) drafted a resolution that said in part: “Wheras “Ebonics” is not a legitimate language: Now, therefore, be it Resolved, that it is the sense of the House of Representatives that no Federal funds should be used to pay for or support any program that is based upont he premise that “Ebonics” is a legitimate language.
January 15, 1997 At a special meeting of the Oakland school board, a revised version of the controversial resolutions was passed.  A major change stated that Ebonics is “not merely a dialect of English” a different stance from the original document which had claimed that there was no relationship between English and Ebonics.  This is significant in that it more closely aligns the position of Oakland with that issued by linguists at LSA. 
January 16, 1997 Texas calls for additional research and information to resolve educational problems confronting African American students.
January 23, 1997 Senator Arlen Specter (R-Pa) chairperson of the Senate subcommittee on Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education, convened Ebonics hearings.  He opened the hearing recounting his own linguistic heritage as a child of Yiddish speaking Jewish immigrants, alluding to the legacy of linguistic diversity that is “such an integral historic component of American culture.
January 23, 1997 Senator Lauch Faircloth (R-N.C.) speaks next at the Ebonics hearing, decrying the politics of race and their Ebonic surrogates as one of the most “absurd” examples of extreme “political correctness” that he had ever encountered.
 January 23, 1997 Representative Maxine Waters (D. Cal.) an African American woman who served as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, responds directly to Senator Faircloth, expressing her opposition to his statement and affirming her understanding of the Oakland school board’s intention to teach standard  English, not Ebonics to its students.
January 23, 1997 The hearing shifts to comments from Oakland educators and an Oakland high school senior of considerable academic distinction.
January 23, 1997 The next speakers are an African American minister, a conservative African American radio talk show host both of whom were highly critical of Ebonics
January 23, 1997 Four scholars speak before the Senate, including Michael Casserly, Executive director of the Council of the Great City Schools, Orlando Taylor, dean of Graduate studies at Howard University, William Labov, internationally acclaimed leader in the field of sociolinguistics, and Robert L. Williams, professor Emeritus from Washington University in St Louis and the creator of the term Ebonics.
January 23, 1997 The Senate hearing end with Senator Specter stating that he fully expected to convene one or more hearings with other witnesses who had not yet had an opportunity to testify.  In the end, no such hearings were convened.
March 3, 1997 California holds politically contentious hearings that sputter as soon as African American Ebonics detractors accuse members of the California legislature of racially motivated political opportunism at the expense of California’s black students.

 

 

 
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