There are amateur genealogists in my family who have traced our lineage back to pre-Revolutionary War America. My husband’s family is proudly related to Abraham Lincoln. Grandma Conklin, whose maiden name was Lincoln, was descended from Abe’s uncle — his father’s brother.

There are some hair-raising, sometimes shameful, tales that go along with family stories spanning 200-300 years, but at least we know who and where we came from. Our history is our identity.

But what if my history wasn’t covered in traditional texts, and my family roots were untraceable within a few generations?

When I was in college I took a course called Native American History. I am not Native American, but I didn’t have to be descended from their culture to benefit from their stories. I learned that many historic occasions and Caucasian characters were less heroic —more human and more flawed — than I had been taught in high school history. The course was eye opening.

Danville Area Community College is offering a course called African American History this fall. It’s in the catalog every year, but this semester it’s being offered for FREE.

When DACC announced the opportunity to take this IAI-approved, transferable course for free, I was saddened by some of the comments posted on social media. Many don’t deserve acknowledgement, but there are a few I’d like to address.

First of all, we do offer “White” history classes — we have many traditional history courses in the catalog. Think about the history you learned in school. How many people did you study who were not Caucasian?

The miracle of this African American History class is that you don’t have to have black or brown skin to take it. There are no prerequisites. Anyone can take this fee class for transfer credits in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree — or just to grow their understanding of the broader human experience.

History is too complex to study from only one perspective; you must look at it from many different angles if you hope for real understanding.

Secondly, DACC is offering a $500 tuition waiver to anyone who registers for at least 15 credits this fall, so any full-time student can take a traditional history course for free. With the 50% discount off online course tuition for fall, that $500 waiver could pay for two fully-online classes.

In a nutshell, “they” aren’t getting anything that isn’t available to everyone.

Finally, for those who asked why we don’t offer free job training classes instead: a) see the paragraph above and register for 15 credits in a career program, and/or b) let me refer you to the Vermilion County Works staff who can offer tuition assistance in pursuit of a new career.

VCW even has funding for travel expenses and childcare — a significantly better deal than one free history class. See them at 407 N. Franklin St. in Danville, or call 442-0296, ext. 101 to speak with a job training specialist.

Registration for the fall semester at DACC is in progress now. Our offices have resumed regular summer hours, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday.

Most fall classes begin Aug. 24. We’d love to have you join us. I’m sure we can find something for you.

Lara Conklin is director of marketing and college relations at Danville Area Community College. Contact her at 443-8798 or e-mail lconklin@dacc.edu.

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