A Texas-based textbook publisher is under fire and promising to make revisions after an image of one of its book’s sections on slavery went viral. What’s the controversy? The book refers to slaves as “workers”–a whitewashing that’s prompted ire from a number of sources.
Pearland, Texas-based McGraw Hill Publishing apologized for referring to “workers” in the photo above, saying on their Facebook page that they “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 also stated that it “is committed to developing the highest quality educational materials and upholding the academic integrity of our products.”
The photo went viral when a ninth-grader took a photo of the section and texted it to his mother, accompanied by the caption “We was real hard workers wasn’t we.”
Here’s the original Instagram post, courtesy of hogglife101:
The boy’s mother, Roni Dean-Burren, is a student and “future teaching fellow” at the University of Houston; Dean-Burren also taught for eleven years at the school her son now attends. She shared her son’s photo on social media, where it spread quickly.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Dean-Burren was straightforward: “This is erasure,” she told the paper. “This is revisionist history—retelling the story however the winners would like it told….I know they can do better,” she said, of McGraw Hill’s apology. “They can send out a supplement. They can recall those books. Regardless of whether you’re left-leaning or right-leaning, you know that’s not really the story of slavery.”
Part of the ongoing problem, says Dean-Burren, is that McGraw only promised to remedy the textbook in the next edition it publishes. Given that her son’s textbook is brand new, though, and the average length of time between new editions, it’s possible that McGraw won’t print the next version of the textbook for a decade.
(Photo credits: Public domain; Slim Thug‘s Texas textbook photo via Instagram)