Tennessee School Apologizes For Slavery Homework Assignment Where Kids Pretended To Own Slaves

A Tennessee junior high school is apologizing after its students were given an assignment in which they were asked to role-play as slave owners, The Tennesseean is reporting.

Some students at Sunset Middle School in Brentwood were given the assignment last week. Several parents, and indeed some of the kids themselves, have taken photos of the assignment and posted it on social media. In it, the kids are to role-play as plantation owners and write how they would complete several tasks that a plantation owner would have to do.

“Your family owns slaves. Create a list of expectations for your family’s slaves,” the assignment read, in part.

Elsewhere in the assignment, they were tasked with writing a poem or song contrasting the experience of slave owners with those of their slaves. The kids were also tasked with putting themselves into the headspace of a 19th-century newspaper editor or social activist, and create political cartoons about immigrant labor in the U.S. or the hazards of living in major cities. They were also asked to create a poster protesting the use of child labor in factories. Other assignments were more straightforward, such as drawing a graph connecting the invention of the cotton gin to the expansion of slavery, and assignments related to the lives of low-wage laborers of that era.

One Twitter user says that his sister, who is African-American, was offended by the assignment.

“It initially made me angry. The fact that my sister is one of a couple of black kids at her school, I can’t let things like this sit around and slide… I don’t like the aspect that my sister is describing how she would be treated as a slave. It doesn’t benefit anyone.”

After an outcry, it seems that Williamson County Schools have also concluded that the assignment was inappropriate.

In a statement, the two teachers who assigned the project, identified by CBS News as social studies teachers Kim Best and Susan Hooper, said that they were sorry for causing any offense.

“We have and will be apologizing to our students. It was never our intention to hurt any of our students.”

Similarly, Williamson County Schools Superintendent Mike Looney also apologized, calling the assignment “wholly inappropriate,” noting that it doesn’t conform to the school district’s values of treating all students with dignity and respect.

According to the Tennessee Department of Education, Sunset Middle School is 70 percent white.

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