The first complaint filed under Tennessee’s anti-critical race theory law was over a book teaching about Martin Luther King Jr.

Primary school classroom
  • The first complaint filed under Tennessee’s new anti-critical race theory law targeted a book about Martin Luther King Jr.
  • The complaint filed by a conservative parents group accused the book of being “Anti-American.”
  • The state’s education department declined to investigate the complaint.

The first complaint filed under Tennessee’s new anti-critical race theory law specifically targeted a book about Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, calling it “anti-American.”

The 11-page complaint — filed by the Williamson County branch of conservative parents group “Moms for Liberty” — alleged that the book “Martin Luther King Jr and the March on Washington” was among a set of lessons promoting “Anti-American, Anti-White, and Anti-Mexican” teaching at Williamson County Schools, a district south of Nashville.

The conservative group specifically protested a photo of segregated water fountains and images showing Black children being blasted with water by firefighters. The group claimed that an accompanying lesson plan showed a “slanted obsession with historical mistakes” and argued it shouldn’t be taught.

The complaint also targeted of two books about Ruby Bridges, the first Black student to attend an all-white school in Louisiana in 1960, and “Separate is Never Equal,” a story about segregation before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.  

The parents group claimed that the books and teacher manuals “implies to second-grade children that people of color continue to be oppressed by an oppressive ‘angry, vicious, scary, mean, loud, violent, [rude], and [hateful]’ white population.”  

In a letter, the state’s Department of Education said it won’t investigate the allegations because the lessons happened during the 2020-21 school year, and it only has the authority to investigate this current school year, the Tennessean reported

Lawmakers in Tennessee in May had banned the teaching of critical race theory — which is an academic approach to examining racial bias — in schools. 

Despite critical race theory rarely being taught below graduate level, its concept has been weaponized over the last few months as culture wars boil over in school districts across the country.

Conservative groups and Republican elected officials have recently pushed to ban certain books about LGBTQ issues or race relations from school classrooms.

Both Williamson County Schools and Moms for Liberty did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.