A pro-slavery Civil War assignment that was given to fourth-graders at an elementary school in North Carolina has drawn the ire of parents who labeled it as racially insensitive as the minors wrote phrases like “Slavery for Life” and “Slavery Forever.”
According to FOX46, the students at Waxhaw Elementary were instructed to step into the shoes of key Civil War historical figures and curate tweets from those perspectives. Describing the rationale behind the assignment in a since-deleted Facebook post, the school explained the minors “studied North Carolinians that had different roles and perspectives on the Civil War.”
The students who partook in the assignment chose pro-slavery names and wrote down quotes attempting to justify their stance. One of the students chose the name “@dontStopSlavery” and wrote, “you may not agree with slavery but I do and I’m honest about it. #Slaveryforlife.” Another student who chose the name “Confederate4life”, wrote, “why do we need to leave the county. We can stay and our slaves! #SLAVERYFOREVER.”
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The students’ written “tweets” were subsequently displayed on the classroom wall and a photo of it was also shared on the school’s official Facebook page. Though the assignment was about historical figures, the “tweets” did not reportedly highlight the personalities the minors were referring to. There also weren’t any anti-slavery “tweets” in the photo that was posted on Facebook, Fox46 reported.
The displayed assignment on the wall was also reportedly visible to students from other classes who did not partake in the assignment. “You have these kids walking by this every single day,” a parent known as Brittany Buford told WCNC.
“It’s not surprised that racism and institutional racism continues to rear its ugly head in that community,” she added. “There’s nothing else to call it. There’s no second side to this coin. Racism is racism.”
Following the backlash, the Union County Public Schools issued an apology saying it was “extremely concerned” about the assignment, explaining that the project was “intended to help students analyze events from the Pre-Colonial period to Reconstruction through the perspective of a key historical figure.”
“This type of assignment is unacceptable, and we apologize for offending parents, staff, students and members of our community,” the statement added. “District administrators are taking this matter very seriously and met with the entire Waxhaw Elementary staff today. In addition, the Twitter Wall has been removed.
“UCPS is actively developing training sessions for all employees to address diversity, equity and inclusion. We are committed to working with teachers to discuss best practices for instruction”
In a statement to Fox46, Selina Campbell, the Education Committee Chairperson for the Union County NAACP, questioned the basis behind the assignment but said “this type of thinking is not uncommon in Union County.”
“The question that we have to ask is, exactly what did they read and what did it say for them to respond ‘that it was good and to keep it’ as well as who taught the class and did they add a perspective that would encourage such an egregious response,” Campbell added.
“The tweet that the students were most proud of is indicative of the thoughts, values, and oppressive practices of the families and leadership here in Union County. These are just children that need to be taught how treacherous and demonic slavery was and that black people are still suffering from the residue of it today.”
This isn’t the first time the Union County Public Schools board has come under fire for racism. A member of the board resigned last year after posting racist content on social media. A diversity and inclusion committee was set up after the board member’s resignation, and members are expected to submit recommendations for reform next month, according to WCNC.