Schools' Black History Lessons Made a 'Mockery' of Slavery

Districts in Virginia, SC, say changes will be made
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 22, 2019 8:37 AM CST
Fugitive slaves are depicted on the Underground Railroad, the historical route used to escape to free states and Canada.   (Getty Images/Photos.com)

(Newser) – A school district in northern Virginia has had to clarify that "slavery is not a game" after students were asked to pose as slaves while completing an obstacle course meant to symbolize the Underground Railroad. The lesson for Black History Month, given to third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students at Madison's Trust Elementary in Brambleton, Va., did not go over well with the local NAACP chapter. Children "don't need to relive slavery. We've done enough. We've paid enough," president Michelle Thomas told the school board at a meeting last week, per NBC News. Retired educator Linda Deans added "having a black male student crawling around on the floor in the dark as he re-enacted a lesson about a runaway slave is an offensive educational strategy."

A Loudoun County Public Schools rep agrees having groups of students pass through plastic hoops while trying not to knock them over "trivializes something that is important," even if it was meant to teach teamwork and communication, per the Washington Post. In a Feb. 12 letter to parents, Madison's Trust Principal David Stewart said the lesson would be presented differently in future "to ensure that all the students have a full understanding of the material, within an appropriate and respectful context." Rock Hill Schools in South Carolina has made a similar vow after a mother complained that her African-American son's class was told to pick cotton and sing a slave song during a field trip for Black History Month in "a mockery of what our people went through," per WJZY. (Read more slavery stories.)

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