Texas mother Roni Dean-Burren took to YouTube recently to call into question the language choices in her son’s textbook, World Geography.
The book, which is used for a freshman year course at her son’s high school, refers to black slaves brought to the United States as “immigrants” and “workers.”
According to Houston’s ABC 13, Dean-Burren’s son Coby is a 9th grader at Pearland High School, outside Houston. Dean-Burren, who is black, specifically called out a chapter titled “Patterns of Immigration,” which references the “immigrants” that came to America as part of the slave trade.
“‘Immigrants,’ yeah, that word matters,” Dean-Burren said before reading one of the offending passages:
“The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the Southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”
“So (slavery) is now considered ‘immigration,” she continues.
She then notes the curiosity that Europeans who came to America as indentured servants worked “for little or no pay.”
“So they say that about English and European people, but there is no mention of Africans working as slaves or being slaves. It just says we were workers.”
Previously, Texas public schools debuted new textbooks at the beginning of the school year that said, among other things, that slavery wasn’t all bad, an opinion we’ve seen in (especially Southern) school textbooks dating as far back as the 1970s. Earlier this year, Michael Todd Landis, a history professor at Tarleton State University in Texas, wrote an essay arguing that the language historians and textbooks use to describe slavery in America should change to more accurately match the reality of the situation—calling on, for example, historians to use the term “enslavers” instead of the more gentle “slave-owners.”
Dean-Burren’s video, meanwhile, went viral and got the attention of the book’s publisher. On Friday McGraw-Hill, publisher of the textbook, responded and announced they would edit the book on its next print run and alter its digital version immediately.
Dean-Burren celebrated the publisher’s decision on her own Facebook page.
“This is change people!!! This is why your voices matter!!! You did this!!!!” she wrote. “And to my sweet boy, my only son….my man man Coby Burren…look at your power son!!”