Category Archives: Education

Report: US Teachers Miseducate Students on Slavery

The Southern Poverty Law Center's new Teaching Hard History report describes what little US students know about slavery.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s new Teaching Hard History report describes what little US students know about slavery.

By Free Radical

On Friday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) a study showing that many k-12 students and instructors know very little about the history of slavery. The report, “Teaching Hard History: American Slavery” showed that in a survey of 1,000 high school seniors, only 8% knew that slavery was central to the Civil War. Less than a quarter knew that the Constitution protected slavery and just under 40% understood that slavery shaped core American beliefs about race.

In large part, the SPLC found fault in the way the subject is taught. Instruction often presents the Civil War as spawning from a conflict over states’ rights rather than slavery. Lessons also fail to grapple with the central role slavery and white supremacy played in the formation of the United States.

It’s hard to discuss violence, it’s hard to discuss and teach white supremacy,” 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.”

Though most teachers agreed that the topic of slavery was essential and important, 58% percent believed they lacked the appropriate training to teach it. Textbooks, some of which have been slanted to accommodate conservative school boards, have discussed bond persons as workers rather than as enslaved. The use of this benign language obscures the fact that a large portion of labor in the US was forced rather than free, and is at odds with other civic lessons that present the country as valuing democracy and liberty.

The SPLC concluded that a proper understanding of slavery wouldn’t just be helpful as students try to come to grips with the past. It will also help them understand contemporary phenomena in criminal justice, poverty, edu, etc.

Descendants of Enslaved Africans Sold By Georgetown Demand Reparations

imagesBy Free Radical

GU272 Isaac Hawkins Legacy Group, which represents the descendants of enslaved Africans sold to keep Georgetown afloat, are calling for direct restitution for the injuries incurred by their ancestors. In 2016, Georgetown University began executing a series of public relations strategies after it was discovered that in 1838, the now esteemed university, sold 272 Africans when it found itself in dire financial straits. That sum today would be more than $3.3 million.

Because that sum is so high, GU272 has announced that it is in talks with the university and will begin placing public pressure on it for remuneration. The entity’s lead counsel, Georgia Goslee expressed at a news conference Wednesday that her clients “do not believe Georgetown has fully atoned for the wealth it unjustly accumulated off the back of unpaid slave labor.”

These sentiments were shared by Dee Taylor, now 70, and a direct descendant of Isaac Hawkins, “I believe Georgetown has the means to do much more.” She continued, “How can Georgetown, which owes its existence to these ancestors, claim genuine atonement when descendant families were not at the table when recommendations for making amends were offered, discussed, and chosen?”

Since going public about the 1838 sale, Georgetown has offered a formal apology, renaming two buildings, preferential admissions for them, and professional genealogy services. The university has also proposed further dialogue to repair the historic wrong. Yet Goslee has argued that though dialogue can be constructive, it can also be used as a stalling tactic, “Dialogue is always a good thing. But we can talk forever while the descendants are languishing, literally dying and in poor health and suffering from the vestiges of slavery . . . If there is real genuine concern, let’s take action.”

In 2016, college uprisings gripped the nation as students of color protested their marginalization at schools across the country. Such protests resulted in a working group at Georgetown to investigate the university’s ties to slavery. The inquiry revealed not only the 1838 sale, but also that the university relied on products cultivated by enslaved labor and revenue generated from selling enslaved Africans since the 18th century.

NJ Prisons Lift Ban on “New Jim Crow”

indexBy Free Radical

After receiving intense scrutiny based on an ACLU challenge, the New Jersey prison system lifted a ban on the award winning book, The New Jim Crow on Monday. The New Jersey Department of Corrections also said that it would review its existing policy of placing books on its banned list.

Earlier that Monday, the ACLU announced that it would attempt to remove The New Jim Crow from the New Jersey prisons’ list of banned books. The critically acclaimed work by Michelle Alexander assiduously details how the prison industrial complex unfairly targets inmates of color.

In a letter to Gary Lanigan, the state’s corrections commissioner, ACLU staff attorney Tess Borden, wrote “For the state burdened with this systemic injustice to prohibit prisoners from reading a book about race and mass incarceration is grossly ironic, misguided, and harmful.”

According to the Guardian, New Jersey has the widest disparity between Black and White incarceration rates in the nation.

The New Jersey penal system bans books that threaten prison safety, are overtly sexual, incite violence, or provide instructions on how to break the law. Curiously, The New Jim Crow does not fall under either of these categories. Yet neither do other banned materials like The Source and XXL hip hop magazines.

In an emailed statement, Michelle Alexander wrote “There’s no reasonable explanation for this save one: prison officials must fear what would happen if people fully understood how biased and corrupt our so-called justice system actually is.”

Norman White, Criminal Justice Pioneer Passes

Norman White

Norman White

By Free Radical

Norman White, a pioneering criminal justice professor at SLU passed from a heart attack on Wednesday. He was 64 years old.

Since joining SLU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, White was known for his scholarship which analyzed how schools and juvenile court systems prematurely and unjustly target marginalized children.

Yet White did not restrict his scholarship to the ivory tower. In 2014, he received a grant to help teachers and administrators recognize the impact that race and trauma have on students and developed effective ways to support them. White also headed the Shut it Down: Closing the School to Prison Pipeline which placed the family court, public schools, and other stakeholders together to alter school culture in order to improve student performance while reducing student interactions with law enforcement.

With student volunteers he also developed the Overground Railroad for Literacy program which tutored local students.

White was also a mainstay during the Ferguson uprising. While on campus, he spray painted “Safe Space” in his office for students to voice their frustrations and map out his strategies during that revolt.

Given his expertise, trial lawyers used him as a witness to advocate for juveniles where he used his theory of risk immersion, which according to his close friend and attorney Nina McDonnell, “argues that children who grow up in extreme poverty and neglect and violence – they are not at risk, they are immersed in risk. That’s the only world they know. They don’t know the world of not being at risk of violence and trauma.”

White leaves a legacy of social justice and scholar activism. According to St. Louis Public Schools superintendent, Kelvin Adams, “He was a passionate advocate for the fair and equitable treatment of kids and families, and we can only honor him if we continue to do the work that he started, training and supporting those who work with children. But this is a tremendous loss.”