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Critical Race Theory
Op-Ed December 6, 2021

The NAACP Condemns Anti-Critical Race Theory Bills and Calls for Teaching About American Slavery from a Black Perspective

Critical Race Theory

Anti-Critical Race Theory bills, like the "teacher loyalty" bill recently introduced in New Hampshire, are oblivious solutions looking for a problem. The bill prohibits teachers from advocating "communism, socialism, or Marxism" or the "overthrow by force of the government of the United States." Interestingly, the only time teachers are likely to teach about an overthrow of the U.S. government by force is when teaching about the Confederacy. 

In response to a section of the law that prohibits "teaching that the United States was founded on racism," one of bill's co-sponsors, Representative Erica Layton (R), ignorantly stated that slavery was "already on the way out," a century before the Civil War.

Conscious historians and teacher educators should design teaching curriculum, not racially obtuse elected officials. Instead of bills prohibiting teachers from teaching the truth about racists aspects of American history, we need bills that provide provisions for training teachers how to teach sensitive topics like the enslavement of Africans and the murder of indigenous populations.  

Teaching about Slavery without Looking like a Jerk

 A White teacher at a training in Florida told me, "I teach at a mostly Black school and slavery is a sensitive and painful topic, and my Black students seem to feel some type of way about a White woman teaching about slavery."

Slavery was more than a "painful period." It was a period of active resistance for Black people. From the founding of this nation, when Black loyalists and Black patriots fought on both sides of the American Revolution, to the Civil War, when all Black brigades fought for freedom, Black people fought valiantly for their freedom and actively shaped their own destiny.

In the state of Florida, as a Spanish territory in the early 1800s, enslaved Africans escaped southern slave states to form colonies and cooperative agreements with Native Americans. They even took command of a cache of weapons that the British abandoned after the War of 1812 and defended their "New Land" from invasions and rescued other slaves.  

There's documented evidence that, under the command of General Garson, the "Negro Fort" won several battles, including battles that led to the emancipation of local slaves, decades before the Civil War. The presence of the Negro Fort invoked widespread consternation among southern slave owners. Florida is also the home of many Haitians. In Haiti, enslaved Africans, not only won freedom from bondage, but also formed an independent republic through military victory.

Nearby, in South Carolina, Africans escaped slavery and started sovereign colonies on islands off the coast that predate Plymouth Rock, with African cultural artifacts that have survived to this day.  Speaking of South Carolina, it was here that ex-slave Robert Smalls learned to pilot a ship and earned his freedom by commandeering a Confederate warship and delivering it to the Union Army.

Before the Civil War, several hundred enslaved Africans escaped every month and immediately began to shape the Western hemisphere. Some established autonomous maroon colonies, some established roots in other nations, and many joined the abolitionist movements. When John Brown tipped off the Civil War by attacking Harpers Ferry, he was accompanied by several ex-slaves, including his co-defendant "Emperor" Shields Green.

There's so much more to say, but we need to stop teaching about 'slaves' and start teaching about 'Black people' during slavery. 

I concluded, "If you teach your students this, I promise, your Black students won't 'feel some type of way' about a White woman teaching about slavery."

Teaching about African Enslavement in America from a Black Perspective

In 2015, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump insulted many by saying of John McCain, "He's not a war hero… I like people who weren't captured."

Until that point, John McCain was universally considered a war hero, primarily because of the 5 years he spent as a North Vietnamese prisoner. But Trump altered the narrative, turning a tale of courage strength and endurance into a symbol of weakness. In an unconventionally unpatriotic way, Trump made the Vietcong the heroes.

The captivity and forced labor of Africans in the Americas (despairingly known as slavery) is presented the same way to students. It is taught from the captor's perspective, re-imaging labor camps into "plantations" and amoral sadists into "masters." The universal heroism, endurance, and resistance of African forced laborers are recasts as passive "slaves" who were waiting for the White conscious community to free them.  

Black people have always been front and center of our own liberation; from the Black Loyalist and Black Patriots, David Walker's revolutionary calls, Nat Turner's insurrections, Harriet Tubman's great escapes, to the Black Union Soldiers.

In truth, the Black people we call "slaves" were prisoners of war who deserve more recognition than John McCain; And the history books that recast Black people as "slaves" should be viewed as unconventional and as unpatriotic as Trump's bizarre celebration of the Vietcong.

My grandfather's grandfathers were Granderson Conn and Papa Charlie,' two Africans in American who were born into slavery and died Civil War veterans for the Union Army. The Civil War didn't happen to end slavery, like portrayed in schools. The Civil War happened because Black people made slavery untenable for the Union. And the Union didn't win the war with Black people's hopes and prayers; they won the war with Black people's blood and bravery. 

In America, we don't teach that Britain "gave" the colonies independence.  We teach that the colonists fought for it. We need our elected officials to acknowledge the same for Black people and Black emancipation.