Educational publisher McGraw-Hill said it will revise and reprint a geography textbook that refers to African slaves in America as “immigrants” and “workers,” after a complaint by the mother of a Texas high school freshman, reports KTRK-TV.
Roni Dean-Burren of Pearland, Texas, posted on Facebook a picture of a section of the textbook “World Geography” that her son, Coby Burren, had sent to her via a text message. The picture shows a graphic about immigration patterns with the text “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 Atlantic slave trade brought millions of workers...notice the nuanced language there,” Dean-Burren wrote. “Workers implies wages...yes?”
Dean-Burren followed the post with a video that shows her discussing the textbook. “‘Immigrants.’ Yeah, that word matters,” she says. She then talks about another passage on the next page of the book: “These are some other sections that ... talk about the pattern of immigration. This section here in particular talks about English and European peoples, ‘many of whom came as indentured servants to work for little or no pay.’ So they say that about English and European people, but there is no mention of Africans working as slaves or being slaves. It just says we were workers.”
This isn’t the first time that textbooks being used in Texas have come under fire for the way they depict racial issues. Earlier this year, social studies textbooks approved for use in the state were criticized for downplaying slavery as a cause of the Civil War and failing to adequately address racial segregation in the Jim Crow era.
McGraw-Hill said in a Facebook post last week that the book will be changed. "[W]e 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 post read. “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.”
McGraw-Hill said the book’s digital version will be changed immediately, and the changes will be reflected in the book’s next print run.
Dean-Burren reacted to McGraw-Hill’s statement with an ecstatic follow-up post on Facebook. “This is change people!!! This is why your voices matter!!! You did this!!!!” she wrote. “And to my sweet boy, my only son....my [main] man Coby Burren...look at your power son!!!”
She ended the post with the hashtags #blackboysmatter and #blacklivesmatter.