Texas considers calling slavery ‘involuntary relocation’ in public school textbooks

·3-min read
Schools in Texas are due to be given an update curriculum this year  (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Schools in Texas are due to be given an update curriculum this year (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

School textbooks in Texas could soon refer to slavery as “involuntary relocation” under proposals put before the state’s education board.

A panel of nine educators submitted the divisive idea to the Texas State Board of Education ahead of a once-a-decade process to update the curriculum for all of the roughly 8,900 public school students in the state, which is due to take place this summer.

Last year, Texas introduced a law to eliminate topics from schools that make students “feel discomfort”, in an apparent attempt at eliminating discussions about the slave trade and other wrongs committed against Black people.

On Thursday, Keven Ellis, chair of the education board, said in a statement seen byThe Texas Tribune that the board had considered the proposals – which have been sent back to the educators for revision.

“The board – with unanimous consent – directed the work group to revisit that specific language,” Mr Ellis said.

According to the Tribune, part of the proposals would see second grade social studies students “compare journeys to America, including voluntary Irish immigration and involuntary relocation of African people during colonial times.”

Board member Aicha Davis, a Democrat who represents Dallas and Fort Worth, reportedly raised concerns at a meeting last month that such a characterisation of slavery was unacceptable.

The state education board then sent the draft back for revision, urging the group of nine educators who submitted the proposals to group to “carefully examine the language used to describe events”.

“I can’t say what their intention was, but that’s not going to be acceptable,” Ms Davis said.

On social media, dozens of users spoke out against the proposals – with one human rights expert tweeting: “This is an obscene suggestion, profoundly wrong.”

“It has already been rejected it would appear, but the fact that it could be even suggested speaks volumes about the agenda behind the pushback on critical race theory,” said Colm O’Gorman.

Another Twitter user, and the president of the US’s oldest human rights organisation, added: “Involuntary relocation” for chattel slavery? Human bondage?”

“The selling and buying of human beings from Africa or descended from Africans? Do people understand that for millions of us, this is family history?,” wrote Maya Wiley, president of The Leadership Conference. “That for the country this represents a civil war?”

Art Acevendo, the former police chief for both Austin and Houston, meanwhile added: “Whitewashing history!!! Slavery deniers are just as dangerous as Holocaust deniers.”

This is not the first time state education in Texas has become controversial, with increasing levels of politicisation and laws introduced by Republican legislatures about how schools should teach race and slavery.

Conservative groups who oppose the teaching of such topics have also increased their funding of school boards.

In 2015, a schoolbook publisher was forced to apologise following revelations that those involved in the slave trade were referred to as “workers”. The book was later revised.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press

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