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HPPR Health, Education & Welfare

In Texas, A Textbook Caption Reignites a Smoldering Fire

Ross Ramsey
Texas Tribune

Earlier this month, a Houston-area mother took to social media to complain about a caption in her child’s Social Studies textbook that described African slaves as immigrant “workers,” reports The Texas Tribune.  Roni Dean-Burren’s son had texted her a photo of the caption in his McGraw-Hill World Geography textbook, which read:


“The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”

After posting the photo to her Facebook page, Ms. Dean-Burren, a doctoral candidate at the University of Houston, soon posted a video noting more concerns she had about the book. After a review, the publisher agreed with Ms. Dean-Burren, posting a response on it’s own facebook page that read in part:

“[We] agree(s) that our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves.”

McGraw-Hill agreed to update the caption immediately on its digital versions, and to change future editions to more accurately reflect history.

However, critics in Texas insist that fixing the caption isn’t enough. They claim that the book in question, as well as other Texas educational materials, are based on flawed Texas Social Studies curricula. “It’s no accident that this happened in Texas,” said Kathy Miller, the president of the Texas Freedom Network. “We have a textbook adoption process that’s so politicized and so flawed that it’s become almost a punch line for comedians. The truth is that too many elected officials who oversee that process are less interested in accurate, fact-based textbooks than they are in promoting their own political views in our kids’ classrooms.”

Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant who has defended the textbooks, disagreed, calling the caption as “an isolated incident”