‘Workers’ or ‘Slaves’? Geography Textbook Updated After Online Complaint


Following online criticism, publisher McGraw-Hill admitted that it glossed over the history of the slave trade in its 9th-grade geography textbook. (Washington Post)

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Here is the original complaint lodged by Roni Dean-Burren, a former teacher and current doctoral candidate in the University of Houston’s Language Arts program.

Discussion Ideas

  • Critics have called language in the disputed geography textbook “revisionist history.” What is revisionist history?
    • Revisionist history is a pejorative term. It refers to the practice of distorting (“revising”) the accepted historical record for political purposes.



  • Do you think referring to American slaves as “immigrants” and “workers” revises African-American history? Why? Why not? What kind of language might be used instead?
    • McGraw Hill quickly recognized its language “did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves.” Future editions of the textbook will include language such as “forced migration” and “slave labor.”
      • Other relevant terminology might include “human trafficking” or “kidnapping.” Use of verbs such as “bought” and “sold” (in addition to “forced” and “brought”) might be valuable in alluding to the economic value of human trafficking.



Washington Post: ‘Workers’ or slaves? Textbook maker backtracks after mother’s online complaint

Network of Alliances for Geographic Education

McGraw-Hill Education responds to complaint

Washington Post: Proposed Texas textbooks are inaccurate, biased and politicized, new report finds (Scroll down for specific issues found with specific textbook passages)

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