A Texas mum posted a video to Facebook and Twitter last week that sparked anger over the content in her son’s geography textbook, The New York Times reported on Monday.
The textbook referred to Africans who were brought to American plantations between the 1500s and 1800s as workers, rather than slaves.
The anger began when Coby Burren, a freshman at Pearland High School in Texas, texted his mother, Roni Dean-Burren, a photo of the page in book with the comment, “we was real hard workers, wasn’t we.”
Dean-Burren was deeply troubled by the language in the textbook, and created a video that has generated almost 2 million views on Facebook. It has spurred angry conversations about whether McGraw-Hill Education is intentionally erasing the history of slavery from its books.
Dean-Burren also points out in the video that there is a discrepancy between how the textbook refers to European versus African immigrants.
“This section here in particular talks about English and European peoples, many of whom who came as indentured servants to work for little or no pay,” Dean-Burren says on the video.
“So they say that about English and European people but there is no mention to Africans working as slaves or being slaves. It just says that we are workers.”
“It’s that nuance of language,” Dean-Burren told the Times. “This is what erasure looks like.”
Since the controversy started, McGraw-Hill posted on its Facebook page that the language was an oversight on its part, and that it will update the digital addition immediately, and the print version in the next print run.
They are also sending stickers to schools to cover up the error in books currently in use.
The controversy again shines a light on Texas curriculum in regard to slavery and Civil War history. In July, there was outrage that Texas schools will teach that slavery was a “side issue” to the Civil War, and the state has repeatedly been in the news for what critics say is its attempt to “whitewash” history.
See below for the video of Dean-Burren explaining what’s wrong with her son’s geography textbook:
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