Publisher promises stickers, changes for textbook that called slaves 'workers'

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 06, 2015 2:18 PM

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - The publisher of a textbook criticized for a glaring error that glossed over the topic of slavery has offered stickers to schools that will cover up a caption describing African slaves as "workers," a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

A World Geography textbook by McGraw-Hill Education was published in Texas earlier this year and says in a caption about immigration that the Atlantic slave trade "brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations."

Changes already have been made in the digital version of the textbook that clarify the arrival of Africans was a forced migration and print editions will soon follow, the publisher said, adding a sticker will be sent to paper over the error for books currently in use.

"We are deeply sorry that the caption was written this way," Chief Executive Officer David Levin said in a memo to employees provided by the company. "While the book was reviewed by many people inside and outside the company, and was made available for public review, no one raised concerns about the caption."

The caption gained national attention after Roni Dean-Burren, a Houston-area mother and doctoral candidate at the University of Houston, brought it up on social media. Her son, a ninth-grader, had pointed it out to her.

In a video posted to Facebook and viewed nearly 2 million times as of Tuesday, Dean-Burren said the publishers categorized slavery under the topic of immigration and implied Africans were paid wages for their labor.

"There is no mention of Africans working as slaves or being slaves. It just says we were workers,” Dean-Burren said in the video.

The publisher said: “... clearly, something went wrong and we must and will do better."

The McGraw-Hill geography edition was approved by the Texas State Board of Education, a conservative body responsible for buying 48 million textbooks a year. Once a book is approved by the body, publishers often market it nationally.

The state's more than 1,000 public school districts are permitted to order their own books and materials but most follow the state-approved list.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Bill Trott)