A pair of slave shackles on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The history of slavery in America continues to be inadequately taught in schools nationwide — a reality that’s causing damaging ramifications on student learning and present-day racial tensions, according to a recently released report.
” Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,” released by the Southern Poverty Law Center on Thursday, revealed that only 8 percent of 1,000 surveyed high school seniors identified slavery as a central cause of the Civil War. Further, only 22 percent knew protections for slavery were included in the Constitution and just 39 percent correctly acknowledged that slavery shaped the fundamental American beliefs about race.
There were no cases where more than two-thirds of students answered the same question correctly, according to the report.
The root of these statistics is the misguided, incomplete way slavery is taught in classrooms and written about in textbooks, Maureen Costello, director of SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project, said during a Thursday press briefing.
The main lesson failures described in the brief included highlighting the Civil War as solely a states’ rights battle, rather than an effort to preserve slavery; downplaying the role slavery played in building and bolstering of the national economy; teaching children about “heroes” such as Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery, before teaching them about slavery itself; labeling slavery a “Southern” problem and failing to address white supremacy’s roots in that era.
“It’s hard to discuss violence, it’s hard to discuss and teach white supremacy … it’s hard to learn about the shortcomings of our American icons,” said Hasan Kwame Jeffries, an associate history professor at Ohio State University who spoke during the briefing. “So rather than charging head-on and trying to make sense of something that was so central to the American experience, we have tended to shy away.”
And while 97 percent of nearly 1,800 teachers nationwide who SPLC surveyed said they believe teaching slavery is essential, 58 percent felt inadequately equipped to teach those lessons with provided textbooks. In the report, teachers cited voiced concerns with how to present slavery in an accurate way that avoids traumatizing black students or putting white peers on the defensive. The report noted that in the U.S. workforce, 82 percent of teachers are white.
“I dislike making this history come alive for my black students,” one Texas teacher told SPLC. “I feel helpless to explain why its repercussions are still with us today.”
These hesitations, paired with heavy reliance on textbooks, have led to misinformed history lessons that “sanitize” and simplify slavery, the report stated.
In some cases, the discrepancy is in the wording. A textbook might say that African-Americans were brought from Africa during the Atlantic slave trade to “work” on plantations, insinuating slavery was a choice. Seventy-three percent of teachers said they’ve used the word “slaves” rather than “enslaved persons,” thus undermining the “humanity of enslaved people,” according to the report. Using the word slave “owners” rather than “enslavers” can also give the assumption of property.
In other cases, lesson plans have turned into tone-deaf demonstrations. In a New Jersey classroom, a student was “sold” at a mock slave auction. A California teacher staged a simulation of a slave ship. A fourth-grade class in Wisconsin had a homework assignment that asked for “three ‘good’ reasons for slavery.”
Under the current political climate, understanding the scope of slavery—and how it thrived under racism and white supremacist ideology —is key to addressing and correcting existing racial tensions, Costello said.
Such tensions were evident during a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia last August, where organizers protested the removal of the city’s statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. There are more than 700 Confederate statues in 31 states and the District of Columbia, according to a 2016 SPLC report.
White supremacist ideology has also been amplified in wake of President Donald Trump’s election, as people feel increasingly emboldened to assert far-right sentiments. SPLC is currently tracking 917 hate groups in the country—many of which are targeting high school and college students.
“We know that white nationalists particularly are targeting teenage, white youth,” Costello said, noting how she’s regularly seen this population “making racial slurs, references to cotton and racist videos” because of a lack of proper education.
SPLC has outlined a framework with recommendations and key concepts teachers should employ when teaching high school students about slavery. The center’s next goal is to develop similar guidance for younger grades, Costello said.
As teachers navigate how to broach the topic of slavery, Massachusetts history teacher Jackie Katz emphasized avoiding any distribution of blame.
“It is 100 percent not [students’] fault that there is racism in this country,” she said. “It will be their fault if they don’t do anything about it in the next 20 years.”
Freedom Is A Choice! “I am grabbing God’s coattail and letting Him lead”
Freedom has a deeper meaning for those like Omar Howard. Just a little over a decade ago he was released, seemingly free from the restraints of prison. Yet, walking out of the doors he had no clue he would be entering into the harsh prison of life that follows those like him who have a record. That record makes it hard for them to have the basic level of freedom that most of us who have never been down that road take for granted. Howard is like multiple men and women who are released from jail with a plan to change but have to fight the “system”. Howard describes his “beginning” as working endless opportunities just to make ends meet and being told “no” repeatedly. It would have been easy for Howard to just go back to the life of crime. Why wouldn’t he? Why didn’t he? His response, “You have to make a conscious decision to change every day. Life is about choices, every choice leads to a destination and you have to believe God is in control”. This thought process and his tenacity led him to his current place and receiving his pardon January 2018, just a month after celebrating his ten year release.
Howard was 15 when he dropped out of school and started down a path to destruction. Hard robbery was the crime that would ultimately change his life and leave him with no choice but to accept a plea deal that resulted in an 18 year sentence from a “hit” that left a man being killed. Howard maintains his innocence in the murder and has apologized to the family for the part that he played. Although he doesn’t blame his childhood for his choices, he does state that it’s important that parent’s play an essential part in the lives of the children that you bring into this world. “Parental intimacy is important, create structure for your kids and let them know how much you love them. Fathers, be a part of your children’s lives or they will embrace their counterparts for support. Be transparent and talk to your kids about real issues.”
When asked, What would you say to your younger self? Howard responds, “Establish a relationship with God. Embrace the process, strive harder and KNOW THAT YOU HAVE A PURPOSE.” The same thoughts he now shares with the youth that are involved with his foundation “Freedom is a Choice, Inc., a mentoring program for at-risk teens. It is evident that Howard is a changed man, as a Chaplain at the Atlanta Transitional Center in midtown, he speaks hope to those who are where he once was. He is a featured speaker in the documentary “Released” When Does the Sentence End?” and most recently shared his story on Iyanla Vanzat’s “Fix My Life” show. He is a man of action and on a mission to keep as many young men from walking in his shoes by exposing them to better. He is a sought after motivational speaker and hopes to extend his program to have one of the largest faith-based youth centers very soon. It is nothing short of amazing, but his ability to serve and give makes him a blessing.
Read more about The Omar Howard Story.
Is This Life?
Media headlines are displaying disaster all over the world with no resolve. From children being killed in innocent shootouts because of the flaws in gun laws to sexual abuse cases on the rise. Our government has gone haywire and currently dominating the spotlight while, deadly diseases and mental illnesses are being minimized. Is this life? Is this what life is becoming? Every morning we wake up to the sound of breaking news and headlines that make us cringe. Positive stories and encouraging words have become harder to find. When asking others, “How do you deal with the negative energy every day?” Some reply, “I don’t. I don’t watch the news, or I don’t listen to it.” My reply is usually this, “It isn’t just on the news. It’s walking or sitting right beside you and sometimes it’s even in your household. There are people suffering every day because of the things we don’t do, don’t want to see, or simply don’t want to get involved in.” We have been conditioned to not get in anyone else’s business unless it affects us personally. Look around you, open your eyes. It’s now affecting us all and we must do something. This is a call for action. It’s time we all unselfishly take part in rebuilding our communities. Make it your business to do something intentional every day in an effort to make a change in your community and begin to push everyone including yourself out of the comfort of just accepting what is. We are losing innocent lives every day to drug abuse, domestic violence, hunger, contaminated water and the list of disasters that are happening right under our nose increase, every second, every minute and every hour of every day.
You may be wondering what you can do to promote positive change in your community, here is a start:
- Volunteer at shelters-Everyone has something they can provide-share your expertise. Help by donating your goods and knowledge.
- Volunteer at schools-Teachers need more mentors and positive role models. We all have a story, share your experience and give a child a blueprint to a better life.
- Spend quality time with your kids and your family- We get so caught up in life that we forget to nourish what we have already been blessed with. Take time to water the seeds you planted.
- Contact your political partners and work with them on change for your community. What do you see in your area that would be an easy fix to reduce crime or poverty. Make a plan and Expose it!
There are so many things that we can do to change the direction of this world but WE must work together for the good and it doesn’t matter what religion, race or sex you are-we all have something in common. We want the best for our families.
Post and share your thoughts on what you can do to expose and improve your community. Hashtag#exposuremagazine #isthislife
Cubs Sign Pitcher Yu Darvish to $126 Million Deal in Preparation for Next Title Run
Making one of the biggest splashes this off-season, the Chicago Cubs have added pitcher Yu-Darvish, formerly of the Los Angeles to their talented, but imperfect roster.
The deal for Darvish standing at $126 million also comes with an opt out clause along with performance clauses to increase the value of the deal. The Cubs had been in talks with Darvish for a good portion of the last season, but now apparently was the best time for both parties.
Despite the unceremonious ending to last season in the NLCS, the Cubs have been in a better place these past several seasons than they have been in a long while. The signing of Darvish to say the least is a very good insurance policy to sustain this run.
With names like Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, Darvish will complete the rotation for one of the most talented group of pitchers in baseball. However this move seems to nudge Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta who is currently a free agent to the door. Arrieta had an up and down season with flashes of greatness, but ultimately didn’t make the best case to remain with the ball club.
Darvish brings a 2.4 ERA against National League Central opponents as well as his all-time MLB leading 11 strikeouts per nine innings ratio to the Cubs which makes this the pickup many other teams are coveting right now. The Cubs begin spring training in a week and can begin integrating Darvish then in preparation for the upcoming season.
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