October 8th, 2015
The page in a McGraw-Hill Education geography textbook that refers to Africans brought to American plantations as “workers,” rather
than slaves. Credit Coby Burren, NYT.
If I told you that text books were recently published in the U.S. and distributed to school districts in Texas that had the word “slave” replaced with “workers” and “immigrants,” you’d probably think it was a sick joke, called me a few choice names (deservedly so), or wondered if it was just a prank or one of those satirical pieces in The Onion. Unfortunately, it’s not a joke, a prank or satire. It’s 100% the truth and it just happened in Texas where Geography textbooks printed by the Texas publisher McGraw-Hill Education referred to slaves as “workers” brought to America to work on plantations and referred to their passage as a migration. Yes, you are not mistaken; your eyes haven’t played tricks on you. Hopefully, you are just as aghast and completely dumbfounded as I am by this blatant and brazen act of altering history.
I am not even going to give the publisher the benefit of the doubt that somehow it must have been the victim of a mind freeze or had a momentary lapse of judgment otherwise who in their right mind would describe a population of people who were brought to this country against their freewill, bought and sold, treated as subhuman and without any rights and kept as chattel as ‘workers.’ The text even refers to many Europeans who were brought to America as ‘migrants’ when in fact they were indentured servants with little or no pay. Referring to the people forced into slavery and indentured servitude as a migration of workers insinuates that they came to this country voluntarily and perhaps even eagerly at their own freewill. This is ignorance at its best and coming from a known publisher of school textbooks it is downright disgraceful and a blatant attempt at revising history. Frankly, it’s despicable.
Thanks to Roni Dean-Burren, the mother of a 15-year old high school freshman from Pearlman, Texas, whose son had pointed out the wording in his world geography textbook, we wouldn’t have had the outrage on social media that ignited last week after she posted her disbelief. Thanks to Ms. Dean-Burren and the national attention generated as a result of her post, McGraw-Hill has issued an apology and agreed to revise and reissue the textbooks.
Even though this story has somewhat of a bittersweet ending, it isn’t the first time textbooks used in Texas have come under scrutiny. Texas has a chronic habit of diluting historic facts in its textbooks by downplaying racial inequality and slavery. If we don’t face our past and accept accountability, how do we ever grow, move forward and evolve as a people?
To read more about the Texas textbook fiasco, click here:
Texas textbook calling slaves ‘immigrants’ to be changed, after mom’s complaint
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