Slaves called ‘workers’ in high school textbook, publisher apologies

Local News

“Workers” appears in textbook

A high school World Geography textbook created quite a buzz on social media for calling slaves “workers.”

On page 126 titled “Patterns of Immigration” there’s a caption 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.”

It was a Houston mother and her child who brought the issue to light on social media.

The publisher has since issued an apology reading in part, “We are deeply sorry that the caption was written this way. While the book was reviewed by many people inside and outside the company, and was made available for public review, no one raised concerns about the caption. Yet, clearly, something went wrong and we must and will do better.”

The textbook is being used in at least one school district in the Rio Grande Valley.

Pharr-San Juan-Alamo School Independent District explained the book is not the main textbook use in school, and it is being used as an additional teaching tool. The portion of the textbook in question is not part of the curriculum and is not used by instructors.

“It was an unfortunate choice of words. It should have never gotten by the editors, but I think that’s where having good teachers that are well educated and sensitive, can overcome shortcomings in teaching materials in that they provide the context,” said Christopher Miller, a professor of history at UTRGV.

The professor noticed a trend in the way the dark past of the nation’s history is taught and presented to students.

“I think you need to be sensitive, but I think you need to be inclusive. I don’t think you can whitewash history. I think you need to be direct, but need to make sure people to understand the circumstances and the context in which those things happened,” Miller said.

Miller said it’s important to not write off the ugly part of history because it helps create a more aware and empathetic society.

“We’ve made education into a political contest. We’ve turned it into something that is designed to advance particular ideological positions. As long as certain people are in control of the board of education or in control of the legislatures, then certain things will be taught and certain things will not,” Miller said.

McGraw-Hill offers its customers using the book a sticker to replace the caption or a new copy of the book.

“People have been hurt by this mistake, and we need to correct it. We will,” the publisher said in a statement.

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