April V. Taylor
McGraw Hill is one of the three major educational publishers here in the United States, and after challenging them, a courageous Texas mother has managed to force them to apologize and edit one of their textbooks that white washes America’s history with slavery. After receiving a text message from her son about his 9th grade geography textbook and reviewing some of his homework, Roni Dean-Burren, also known as Rusty Styles, took to Facebook and posted a video about the publisher’s gross negligence and inappropriate use of language in describing slavery.
Styles’ son was clearly bothered by the textbook, sending his mom the following text message:
Activists joined in, voicing their dissent through social media using the hashtag #RecallAndReplace.
At the center of the controversy is a chapter in the book titled “patterns of immigration” that suggests that Africans willfully immigrated to America to work on plantations and grow food. The textbook refers to slaves as agricultural “workers.” In her video, Styles points out that the textbook was reviewed by more than 20 academics prior to being published, meaning that dozens of people are responsible for allowing the textbook to be published with such glaring errors and omissions.
In the chapter mentioned above, the textbook states, “One of the defining aspects of the United States is that it is largely a country of immigrants and their decedents, about 13% of the people in the US are foreign-born.” In addition, after failing to refer to Africans as slaves, the textbook refers to European indentured servants as people who were forced to work against their will.
Styles, who is a Future Faculty Teaching Fellow at the University of Houston and a Black Lives Matter activist, reports that the textbook does not mention slavery whatsoever or that Africans were forced into slavery.
Although textbooks that have already been printed will not be recalled, McGraw Hill is updating digital copies of the book and changes will appear in future publishings. In its apology, the publisher states, “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.”
McGraw Hill has a history of “mistakes” that include climate change denial. In response to the publisher’s apology, Styles pointed out that one person’s voice makes a difference, telling her son, “You did this!!!! And to my sweet boy, my only son…my man man Coby Burren…look at your power son!!!” In an additional Facebook post, Styles shared a video of her son discussing his passion for quantum physics and his goal of studying with Stephen Hawking at Oxford University.