Texas Mom Forces Textbook Publisher to Correct Caption Implying Slaves Were Immigrant Workers


Educational publisher McGraw-Hill is updating one of their textbooks after a Texas-based mother and teacher publicly complained about a page that refers to slaves as “workers.”

Last week, Roni Dean-Burren’s 15-year-old son Coby texted her a page from his textbook that reads: “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.”

The page is, of course, just one example in a long line of textbooks that effectively erase the horrors of slavery.

Dean-Burren, who taught at her son’s school for 11 years, posted a screenshot of his text on Facebook and wrote:

McGraw-Hill Education then responded to Dean-Burren in a post on Friday, stating that they reviewed the textbook’s content and that the caption will be updated in subsequent versions of the book.

“We believe we can do better,” they stated. In full, their post reads:

This week, we became aware of a concern regarding a caption reference to slavery on a map in one of our world geography programs. 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.
We believe we can do better. To communicate these facts more clearly, we will update this caption to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor. These changes will be reflected in the digital version of the program immediately and will be included in the program’s next print run.
McGraw-Hill Education is committed to developing the highest quality educational materials and upholding the academic integrity of our products. We value the insight the public brings to discussions of our content.

Dean-Burren told the Washington Post: “On a surface level, ‘yay.’ I understand that McGraw-Hill is a textbook giant, so thumbs up for listening.”

But, she adds, “I know they can do better. 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. Minimizing slavery in any way is a way of saying those black lives, those black bodies, that black pain didn’t matter enough to give it a full description.”

Contact the author at [email protected].

Image via Roni Dean-Burren

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