By Manny Fernandez and Christine Hauser, New York Times

 

The page in a McGraw-Hill Education geography textbook that refers to Africans brought to American plantations as “workers,” rather than slaves. Credit Coby Burren

The page in a McGraw-Hill Education geography textbook that refers to Africans brought to American plantations as “workers,” rather than slaves. Credit Coby Burren

HOUSTON — Coby Burren, 15, a freshman at a suburban high school south of here, was reading the textbook in his geography class last week when a map of the United States caught his attention. On Page 126, a caption in a section about immigration referred to Africans brought to American plantations between the 1500s and 1800s as “workers” rather than slaves.
 
He reached for his cellphone and sent a photograph of the caption to his mother, Roni Dean-Burren, along with a text message: “we was real hard workers, wasn’t we.”
 
Their outrage over the textbook’s handling of the nation’s history of African-American slavery — another page referred to Europeans coming to America as “indentured servants” but did not describe Africans the same way — touched off a social-media storm that led the book’s publisher, McGraw-Hill Education, to vow to change the wording and the school’s teachers to use other materials in the class.
 
“It talked about the U.S.A. being a country of immigration, but mentioning the slave trade in terms of immigration was just off,” said Ms. Dean-Burren, who is black. “It’s that nuance of language. This is what erasure looks like.”
 
Ms. Dean-Burren cataloged her objections to the caption last week in posts on Facebook and Twitter. The posts, along with a video she made while flipping through the book, were widely shared, catching the attention of the #blacklivesmatter movement as the video alone reached nearly two million views.
 
Texas textbooks — and how they address aspects of history, science, politics and other subjects — have been a source of controversy for years in part because the state is one of the largest buyers of textbooks. In 2010, the Texas Board of Education approved a social-studies curriculum that put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, including emphasizing Republican political achievements and movements. State-sanctioned textbooks have been criticized for passages suggesting Moses influenced the writing of the Constitution and dismissing the history of the separation of church and state…
 

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