Furor Over ‘African Slaves Are Workers’ From McGraw-Hill Education Textbook

Furor Over ‘African Slaves Are Workers’ From McGraw-Hill Education Textbook
A Conversation with Phillis Wheatley Sharon Mollerus / Flickr cc by 2.0

Textbook publisher giant McGraw-Hill Education came under fire when a Texas mother called them out over seemingly unscrupulous passages in its book. The publisher is accused of “erasure,” an act where a significant historical fact is altered to make it more appealing for the benefit of the culture concerned.


“The Atlantic slave trade between the 1500s and the 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations,” the passage in the book, titled World Geography by McGraw-Hill Education, reads. The passage is included in a section called “Patterns of Immigration.”

In a Facebook post first reported by The Washington Post, Texas mother, Roni Dean-Burren, said his son, Coby, in ninth-grade geography class, texted him a photo of the passage. Coby’s text reads “we was real hard workers, wasn’t we?” with a disappointed face emoji at the end.

Dean-Burren’s Facebook post went viral so she decided to post a video discussing the textbook. In the video, which have been viewed for more than 1.5 million people already, Dean-Burren said that European people who came to America were described as indentured servants who received little to no pay.

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“So they say that about English and European people, but there is no mention of African working as slaves or being slaves. It just says we were workers,” Dean-Burren said in the video.

McGraw-Hill Education has already responded on the issue. In a Facebook post, the company said that its president and CEO, David Levin, had sent out email to all of company’s employees. In the letter, Levin admitted that the company made a mistake.

“We are deeply sorry that the caption was written this way. 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. Yet, clearly, something went wrong and we must and will do better,” Levin wrote in the letter. Levin said that the company has learned from the issue and will prevent the same thing from happening again.

The CEO promised to increase the company’s reviewers to include greater diversity. McGraw-Hill is now offering customers the option of either getting a sticker to cover and replace the caption with the corrected one or a new, corrected printed copy of the book.

“All of us at McGraw-Hill Education care passionately for the students, teachers and communities we serve. People have been hurt by this mistake and we need to correct it. We will,” Levin wrote.