Textbook Suggests Africans Immigrated To America To ‘Work,’ But Called European Indentured Servants Slaves

McGraw-Hill Education has issued a public apology after a Texas mother pointed that her ninth grade son’s textbook claimed that African people had migrated to America to “work,” whereas it called European indentured servants slaves forced to work against their will. Now the textbook publisher has admitted that the wording was chosen poorly and that the passages did not adequately convey that African people were forced to work by slave owners.

The Daily Mail reports that textbook publisher McGraw-Hill is under fire after a mother pointed out a discrepancy in ninth-grade geography textbook. A chapter titled “patterns of immigration” suggested that Africans immigrated to America to work on plantations and grow food. The textbook simply called them agricultural “workers.”

Though African people did work on plantations between 1500 and 1800 as the textbook suggested, they were forced to work against their will. In fact, many of the African people were brought over on slave ships for the sole purpose of being sold into slavery; however, the McGraw-Hill textbook left that detail out of the passage.

However, the textbook writer pointed out very clearly in the text that many people of European and English decent were brought to America to work as “indentured servants” for “little or no pay.” Therefore, Texas mother Roni Dean-Burren was taken aback by the wording. She says it is interesting that it is telling that the author chose to call African people “workers” without pointing out they were slaves, but noted indentured servants received “little or no pay.”

The angry mother took to YouTube to voice her concerns over the discrepancy and it seems McGraw-Hill was listening. The mother explained how her son had sent her a text message with a photo of the passage along with the caption, “we was real hard workers wasn’t we” with a sad face emoji.

Roni, a Future Faculty Teaching Fellow at the University of Houston and a Black Lives Matter activist, says that there was no mention whatsoever in the textbook about Africans being forced into slavery. In fact, there was no mention of slavery.

“There is no mention of Africans working as slaves or being slaves,” Dean-Burren says, panning her cell phone camera over the pages of the text book. “It just says we were ‘workers.’”

McGraw-Hill says that the wording was chosen poorly and they have since apologized for their error. The publisher says that they could have done better and that the emphasis should have been placed on the work being done as slave labor.

“We agree… 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.”

The publisher thanked everyone for pointing out the error and says they appreciate when the public openly discusses the content of the textbooks so that they can work to make it better.

In response to the apology, Roni Dean-Burren said “this is change” and pointed out that your voices really do matter. She told those who contacted McGraw-Hill with their outrage that “you did this.” She also pointed out how proud she was of her son for bringing the passage to her attention.

What do you think of McGraw-Hill’s textbook mishap? Did the publisher handle the issue to the best of their ability? How do you think Roni Dean-Burren, the Texas mother, handled the situation?

[Image Credit: Youtube/ Roni Dean-Burren]