Texas Textbook Describes African Slaves as 'Workers'

McGraw-Hill will make changes after mom's post goes viral
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2015 12:09 PM CDT

Roni Dean-Burren was incensed when she got a text message from son Coby of a page in his ninth-grade geography textbook. "The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations," read a line in the McGraw-Hill World Geography book under a section called "Patterns of Immigration." The Texas mom posted the photo to Facebook last Wednesday with the caption, "The Atlantic slave trade brought millions of workers...notice the nuanced language there. Workers implies wages...yes?" A subsequent video on the matter she posted the following day ("Immigrants. Yeah. That word matters," she says) was shared more than 45,000 times, and now McGraw-Hill says it will make changes.

"This program addresses slavery in the world in several lessons and meets the learning objectives of the course. However, we conducted a close review of the content and agree that our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves," the company said in a post Friday. "To communicate these facts more clearly, we will update this caption to describe the arrival of African slaves in the US as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor." But though the changes will be made in the book's digital edition immediately, Dean-Burren tells the Washington Post that only a handful of students use that version—and since the textbook in question is new, the next print run likely won't happen any time in the next decade. She wants McGraw-Hill to consider recalling the books or sending out supplements. (This is far from the first time Texas textbooks have caused controversy.)

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