What's in the Proposed New Texas Textbooks? Segregation Wasn't All That Bad

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What will students learn about segregation if the State Board of Education approves new social studies textbooks publishers have submitted this year for use in Texas public schools? Bowing to the desires of right-wing politicians on the State Board of Education, some of the textbooks give legitimacy to neo-Confederate arguments about “states’ rights” causing the Civil War and the legacy of slavery after that war.

As Edward Countryman, distinguished professor of history at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, points out in his report on the proposed history textbooks for the TFN Education Fund, rejects the textbook suggestions that “states’ rights” was a major cause of secession and the war that followed:

“The concept of ‘states’ rights’ in an abstract sense as a defense of secession did not appear until after the conclusion of the Civil War. Contemporaneous documents and statements by southerners make it plain that slavery was the underlying reason for their action.”

But the failure of some textbooks to teach students about the severity of the discrimination and oppression suffered by African Americans in the decades after the war is also problematic. McGraw-Hill’s United States Government textbook, for example, understates the tremendous and widespread disadvantages of segregated African-American schools compared to white schools during the Jim Crow era:

“Under segregation, all-white and all-African American schools sometimes had similar buildings, buses, and teachers. Sometimes, however, the buildings, buses, and teachers for the all-black schools were lower in quality. Often, African American children had to travel far to get to their school.”

Dr. Emile Lester, an associate professor of political science at the University of Mary Washington who reviewed the government textbooks for the TFN Education Fund, was critical of this passage:

“The case study severely understates the tremendous and widespread disadvantages of African-American schools compared to white schools and the limitations placed on educational opportunities for blacks in general during the Jim Crow period.”

You can read more about the problems in proposed new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools here: tfn.org/history. While you’re there, sign the petition calling for textbooks based on honest, accurate history, not the ideological beliefs of politicians on the State Board of Education. The state board is set to vote in November on which textbooks to approve.

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7 thoughts on “What's in the Proposed New Texas Textbooks? Segregation Wasn't All That Bad

  1. The top photograph in the TFN blog post is from Clinton, Tennessee, which is located just 5 miles down the road from me. The local community hereabouts, white and black, have made a documentary film about the experience of the Clinton 12 in the 1950s. In addition, they have established a fine museum devoted to the community experience involving the Clinton 12.

    Things really came to a head in town when the white pastor of First Baptist Church in Clinton volunteered to escort the 12 scared black kids down the hill from their homes to Clinton High School. Afterwards, a white mob cornered him and beat him up badly. The next Sunday he preached a famous sermon around the theme: “There are no color lines at the cross.”

    You can learn all about it here:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csftDtWTms0

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgGXc8vSfIU

      1. The recent documentary film entitled “The Clinton 12” would be an excellent addition to TFN’s library—if you have a library. It is still available for purchase on DVD.

        If today were August 27, 1956 and the conservative members of the Texas SBOE were on the local school board in Clinton, Tennessee, I wonder which side of this issue they would have taken? Just wondrin’?

      2. One more thing. Not too long after the Edward R. Murrow report (above) was finished, members of the local white hate group secretly planted explosives in Clinton High School and blew it to smithereens. The message was clear. If the negroes were going to attend Clinton High School, then they were going to see to it that no one (not even the white kids) would attend the high school. Fortunately, the nearby school system in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (established under the Manhattan Project) agreed to take all the Clinton high school students for that school year. There was no trouble in Oak Ridge.

    1. I just watched the video attached to the first comment (from “Charles”). It’s a January 1957 episode of Edward R. Murrow’s “See It Now,” and I didn’t expect to watch the whole thing but I couldn’t look away. The response in Clinton TN to school integration by the white students, the faculty and school board, the local chamber of commerce, and especially a courageous and eloquent Baptist preacher are truly inspirational.

  2. Just in case some of the two-bit, wingnut Texas bigots out there might like to see it and be ashamed of themselves for breathing the same air as decent people, the Clinton 12 went on to live interesting and productive lives. They are all old people or deceased now, but the following link provides a brief biographical sketch of each “worthless negro” and what he or she accomplished throughout their life.:

    http://www.greenmcadoo.org/clinton_twelve.html#maurice

    “Now, aren’t you ashamed of yourselves?”

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