We have no clue as to why any teacher would think a project like this would be empowering for any student— let alone African-American children— but a New Jersey school is under fire for assigning the task of creating slave auction posters.
WABC reported that the assignment was mandatory and required the South Mountain Elementary School fifth grade class to complete a drawing “ of an event that would occur during [your] assigned colonial time period, including a poster for a lecture, speech, protest or slave auction.”
Some of the completed posters included a 12-year-old slave named Anne, who was described as “a fine housegirl,” one that said that only cash for slaves were accepted and another with slaves bearing big grins.
According to NJ.com, parents took to social media to express their outrage and disgust for this assignment.
Jamil Karriem posted on his Facebook page photos of the posters with a caption explaining that while he understands the importance of educating children about our country’s past, “the medium for said education is grossly insensitive and negligent.”
Another parent wrote on Facebook, “It is completely lost on me how this project could be an effective way to teach any student in any age group about American history.”
They added: “Educating young students on the harsh realities of slavery is of course not the issue here, but the medium for said education is grossly insensitive and negligent.”
Superintendent John Ramos sent home a note saying that the project has been a part of a larger Colonial America unit that’s been done for 10 years, but apologized for any harm it may have caused. He also stressed that due to the outrage, the images were taken down from the school’s hallway.
“[South Orange Maplewood School District] is committed to infus[ing] cultural competency in every aspect of our learning community,” Ramos said in a statement.
“As part of this never-ending process, it is important that we reflect on the unintended effects of our curriculum, instruction and interactions. Having reflected on the concerns shared with us, we have decided to remove the slave-auction posters from South Mountain hallways, and we apologize for any unintended offense or hardship this activity has caused.”
The school is also hosting a community meeting to discuss whether or not the assignment was appropriate for their young students.