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Those Helpful Africans

Apparently after they were "brought" to Georgia, the Africans were kind enough to "help" with getting all that cotton picked in the fields. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports [registration required]:

When Michele Mitchell sat down to study history with her daughter last spring, she assumed the third-grade book wouldn't say much about black history. But she wasn't prepared to read that slaves were "brought" here to "help" others.

"It belittles, for me, the experience," said Mitchell, who is African-American. "I understand it's third grade . . . [but] I had a major issue with the word 'help.' "

After achieving partial success with her complaints in Fayette County, Mitchell said she now intends to ask the state Board of Education to ban the book — "The Story of Our Georgia Community" — for glossing over slavery and African-American history.

Schools in Fayette County, where Mitchell and her daughter Onika Smallwood live, have been using the 64-page paperback for about two years to supplement social studies texts. The book, which comes in a kit with maps and a teacher's manual, is used in third-grade classrooms across metro Atlanta — including some in Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Henry counties — according to the publisher. Although the book is approved for use in classrooms statewide, other systems, including Atlanta, Marietta and Decatur schools, do not use it.

Onika, now in fourth grade, remembers trying not to cry when her class read about slaves "helping" pick cotton in the Georgia fields. "We were forced! We weren't even helping!" she said. "That wasn't right. I knew in my heart it wasn't right. . . ."

Cathy Geis, Fayette's social studies coordinator, reviewed the book before it was purchased and defends its use. The main focus of third-grade social studies is citizenship, communities and government, which, she said, is covered in the students' main textbook. Geis said the kit was purchased because it is closely aligned to the state curriculum and provides hands-on activities for students.

So maybe the book should explain why the descendants of those helpful African farm workers still do not enjoy full representation in presidential elections. In 2000

Black voters in Georgia were almost two times more likely than white voters to live in counties that use the most error-prone voting machinery. Almost half (46.23 percent) of Georgia’s black voters live in punch card counties while less than one-quarter (24.73 percent) of Georgia’s white voters live in punch card counties. Conversely, white voters in Georgia (57.88 percent) were 1.5 times more likely than black voters to use optical scanning equipment, which is least likely to yield uncounted votes. Slightly more than one-third of black registered voters (36.53 percent) in Georgia used the optical scan method of voting.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Jeff September 30, 2004, 3:22 pm

    Talking with old-Montgomery people revealed similar stories: how real estate on the wrong side of town became undesirable, unsellable, overnight thanks to desegregation.

    When we put our historic-neighborhood house up for sale, we were admonished, “don’t sell to black, now…” Not “blacks”, but “black”. Anyone who’s lived in the south awhile will recognize the phrase.

    My feeling was I’ll sell to whoever brings the right price — green is the color that concerns me. But rather than try to re-educate white retirees, I kept quiet.

    Economic discrimination…. right. Still injustice, no matter what adjective is used.

  • Ben G. October 1, 2004, 3:55 pm

    One interesting thing about the voting problem–I’m assuming that’s what you’re making the comparison to–is that the disparities in electoral resource allocation to black and white communities is not only a southern thing. The Harvard study which I’ve written about finds that, in general, throughough the US, the more Blacks in an electoral district,the more ballots that get cast but not counted.

    Also there’s a good piece on integration and white flight over at the Niggerati Network (Earl Dunovant’s new group blog, in addition to Prometheus 6).

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