Tag Archives: slavery

Black middle school students asked to clean cotton for slavery assignment, family alleges

SPOKANE, Wash. — A Washington state family is calling for the removal of a school administrator whose suggestion was to separate two Black students after their mom raised concerns about a classroom assignment the students say involved cleaning cotton.

Twins Emzayia and Zyeshauwne Feazell said they were in their social studies class on May 3 when they said the teacher pulled out a box of raw cotton and told the class they were going to do a “fun” activity. The girls added the students were subsequently instructed to clean freshly picked cotton as part of a classroom assignment to see who could do so the fastest.

The 14-year-olds, who attend Sacajawea Middle School in Spokane, said that they were “hurt” and “shocked” during the lesson and told their mother, Brandi Feazell, about the incident.

Brandi Feazell said she was “floored” when she heard about the lesson being taught in the class.

“For you to pass out cotton and to my children [and tell them] that essentially, they’re going to pick the cotton clean and it’s a race of who can get it clean first, that was extremely bothersome to me and my children,” said the twin girls’ mother. “Under no circumstance … do they need to be taught what it’s like to be a slave or what it’s like to be Black.”

Feazell said that upon hearing about the classroom activity, she wanted to remind her daughters of their worth.

“I reinforced to my daughters that they are worthy and their value,” said Feazell. “That was a horrible time in our history and we should be learning from that and it should never be repeated.”

Brandi Feazell said she called the school to raise concerns about the lesson in the classroom, but added that principal assistant Taylor Skidmore defended the teacher’s actions. He then suggested removing the twins from their social studies class, the mom said.

“[The teacher] is still at work and yet my kids are being punished when I’m told that the best thing they could do for my kids at that point was to segregate them into a room by themselves away from the white teacher,” Feazell said.

Sandra Jarrard, executive director of communications for the Spokane Public School district, told ABC News that a third-party investigation into the incident will be conducted.

“The students were learning about the industrial revolution and the cotton gin was discussed,” according to a statement from the Spokane Public School district. “We take all complaints very seriously and are committed to investigating them fully. There are conflicting reports to this incident. Once the third party investigation is completed, we look forward to coming back to share the outcomes.”

The cotton gin, patented in the late 18th century by Eli Whitney, was used to separate cotton fiber from the plant’s seeds. The tool greatly increased cotton production but also greatly increased southern plantations’ need for slave labor, with tens of thousands uprooted from Africa in the decade following the gin’s invention, according to the National Archives.

Feazell said that she was disappointed with the school administration’s response to the incident.

“I truly believe that at this point, the school district did not do their job,” said Brandi Feazell. “The administration at the school as well as the district level, are not protecting these children the way they need to.”

The girls have not returned to school since the incident occurred and their mother said the administration’s response “made it seem as if we were not going to be able to have my daughters in a safe environment at all.”

“We hope that these teachers and educators are going to fulfill and thrive and grow and help us create these children that are going to be productive citizens in the world and make it a better place,” said Feazell. “When I sent my children to school that day, they came back with their mental and their spirit and their emotional beings of themselves broken.”

The family is calling for the social studies teacher and other school administrators to be disciplined for how they handled the situation. They are also calling for the removal of Skidmore, as well as a formal apology from the school district.

ABC News’ Micah Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021 ABC News Internet Ventures.

Author: ABCNews

This post originally appeared on ABC13 RSS Feed

This Seminary Built on Slavery and Jim Crow Has Begun Paying Reparations

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One night in 1858, Carter Dowling, an enslaved Black man forced to work without pay at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Northern Virginia, made the brave decision to escape.

He made it to Philadelphia, where he met the famed abolitionist William Still. He then continued north to Canada and, after the Civil War, returned to Washington, D.C., where he was able to open a bank account for his children. He eventually went on to work as a labor organizer in Buffalo.

To this day, Mr. Dowling’s family line continues. And, most likely for one of the first times in American history, his descendants could receive cash payments for his forced labor.

In February, the Virginia Theological Seminary began handing out cash payments to the descendants of Black Americans who were forced to work there during the time of slavery and Jim Crow.

The program is among the first of its kind. Though other institutions have created atonement programs, such as scholarships and housing vouchers for Black people, few, if any, have provided cash. (The Times could not verify whether the seminary is the first to provide cash payments.)

“When white institutions have to face up with the sins of their past, we’ll do everything we can to prevaricate, and we’ll especially prevaricate if it’s going to have some sort of financial implication,” said the Rev. Ian S. Markham, the president and dean of the seminary, which is in Alexandria, Va. “We wanted to make sure that we both not just say and articulate and speak what’s right, but also take some action — and we were committed to that from the outset.”

The checks, about $ 2,100 this year, will come annually and have begun to flow to the descendants of those Black workers. The money has been pulled from a $ 1.7 million fund, which is set to grow at the rate of the seminary’s large endowment. Though just 15 people have received payments so far, that number could grow by the dozens as genealogists pore through records to find living descendants.

The program authorized payments to the members of the generation closest to the original workers, calling them “shareholders.” If that generation includes people who have died, the payments would go to their children. And if that person had no children, the money would be split among the siblings of the eldest generation.

The Rev. Joseph Thompson, the seminary’s director of multicultural ministries, remembers the day that Mr. Markham walked into his office and asked what he thought about creating a reparations program.

“This is one of those things I never thought I would see in my lifetime — a serious, a kind of broad conversation about reparations in the United States of America,” he said. “That was a very striking moment for me.”

Credit…Linda J. Thomas

The seminary’s leaders acknowledge that the particulars of who will receive money, and how much, could be complicated. Take the case of Mr. Dowling. While he was Black, his grandchildren identified themselves on official records as white, and so have their descendants.

Maddy McCoy, a genealogist working with the seminary to find the descendants of enslaved individuals, said that while such situations have presented difficult questions, the seminary had tackled them head on.

“There is no manual that we are referring to as we move through this,” Ms. McCoy said. “With that, it’s going to be a lot of ups and downs and a lot of really, really difficult decisions and difficult conversations, but that’s what this work is.”

The expansion of the program in the coming years will coincide with the seminary’s 200th anniversary in 2023. The seminary, a 25-minute drive south from Washington, has become the most powerful in the Episcopal Church. It graduates about 50 students a year and boasts a $ 191 million endowment.

But the institution, for all its prominence, depended for decades on the labor of Black people who were never paid adequately for their labor — or were never paid at all. They included gardeners, cooks, janitors, dishwashers and laundry workers. The exact number of Black workers from 1823 to 1951 is still unknown, but they probably numbered in the hundreds.

Among them was the grandfather of Linda J. Thomas, the first woman to receive a $ 2,100 payment from the seminary. Ms. Thomas’s grandfather, John Samuel Thomas Jr., worked at the seminary after World War I as a janitor, and most likely also as a laborer on the seminary’s farm.

Ms. Thomas, 65, said her mother remembered growing up in a little white house on the campus. She said her grandfather had dreamed of becoming a minister but had been barred from applying to the seminary because of his skin color. Eventually, near the end of World War II, he moved to Washington and became a minister before his death in 1967.

Though the payments are modest, she said she hoped the program would mark a shift in the American narrative around reparations — both about the exploitation of Black people and the institutions that benefited. “For so many years, people with the sweat on their backs not only picked cotton, but built institutions,” she said.

While the seminary’s program is groundbreaking in the United States, William A. Darity, a professor of public policy and African-American studies at Duke University, said such atonement programs should not be interpreted as sufficient in righting the wrongs of slavery or in eliminating the effects of racist policies.

The only institution that can fund a comprehensive reparations program large enough to atone for the lost wages of slavery or bridge the racial wealth gap is the federal government, he said. “This is not a matter of personal guilt,” he added, estimating that such a comprehensive program would require $ 11 trillion. “This is a matter of national responsibility.”

Public support for reparations has grown over the years, from 19 percent of those surveyed in 1999 to 31 percent in 2021, according to polls from ABC and The Washington Post. But even within the seminary, the atonement program drew some pushback.

Mr. Markham said a handful of donors had objected and had said they would no longer contribute money. They also heard from some people who asked to be removed from the seminary’s mailing lists.

In determining how to provide reparations, a common dividing line has been whether to provide cash. The City Council of Evanston, Ill., agreed to distribute $ 10 million to Black families in the form of housing grants, though the particulars of that plan remain unclear. Earlier this year, Gov. Ralph Northam of Virginia signed a law requiring five public universities to create scholarships and community development programs for Black individuals. And in March, a prominent order of Catholic priests vowed to raise $ 100 million to benefit the descendants of the enslaved people it once owned.

Payments are a fundamental part of the Virginia seminary’s program, said Ebonee Davis, the associate for multicultural ministries, but she added that relationships with families, as well as the recognition of their ancestors’ contributions, were also crucial. “I’ve cried on the phone with shareholders,” she said. “We’ve laughed and kind of shared our disbelief that this is actually happening.”

It is no small task to confirm the identities of enslaved people who worked at the seminary, along with their descendants. It is likely that from 1823 to 1865, at least 290 people labored there, according to the research staff. From 1865 to 1951, there were probably hundreds more.

Gerald Wanzer, one of the shareholders, said the records examined by the seminary had revealed new details about several members of his family who worked there as general laborers, laundresses and janitors. His great-grandfather, a blacksmith, is believed to have been the first.

But Mr. Wanzer, 77, said that the seminary “can never make up for what happened 150 years ago, and the money is not going to change, personally, my views.” Mr. Wanzer said that in his own lifetime, he had experienced much of the racism that his ancestors endured.

“I never had to ride in the back of the bus, but I do remember the separate bathrooms and the separate water foundations, and not being able to get served at the carry-outs,” he said, adding that those experiences had fueled his belief that he would never live to see atonement in the form of cash payments.

Mr. Markham said that he believed America was facing a reckoning over racial inequality and that the seminary’s program, though modest, would help nudge the nation away from its tendency to turn a blind eye.

“I think the time has come to say, ‘No, you can’t anymore,’” he said. “You actually do need to really face up to what happened, how it happened, and how you make it right.”

Author: Will Wright
This post originally appeared on NYT > U.S. News

Georgetown ISD family considers other districts after daughter's 'disturbing' class assignment on slavery

Author Jennifer Sanders
This post originally appeared on KXAN Austin

GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) — It was a call Martine and Amos Keith never thought they would get from their fifth-grade daughter about a class assignment.

She’s a student at Carver Elementary School in the Georgetown Independent School District, and during one of her remote-learning courses she received this assignment: “Record a speech from the viewpoint of a Southerner explaining why slavery is necessary.”

Picture of a computer screen showing the Georgetown ISD assignment, which reads, "Record a speech from the viewpoint of a Southerner explaining why slavery is necessary." (Courtesy: Martine Keith)
Picture of a computer screen showing the Georgetown ISD assignment, which reads, “Record a speech from the viewpoint of a Southerner explaining why slavery is necessary.” (Courtesy: Martine Keith)

“When I pulled out the assignment, I couldn’t believe my eyes, what I was reading, it was very disturbing, especially in the time we are in now,” said her mom, Martine.

The Keiths said the teacher told them their daughter had a choice whether to do the assignment, and she (the teacher) was just teaching the lessons provided by the district.

The next day, the Keiths pulled their daughter out of that class.

“I was informed that this particular bonus assignment has been removed from the curriculum, but how long has it been going on?” asked Martine. 

After KXAN asked several questions about the assignment and its origin, Georgetown ISD sent the following statement.

“Georgetown ISD is aware of this and deeply regrets the pain this may have caused for students and their families as a result. This is not reflective of Georgetown ISD or our beliefs.

We believe in equity for all learners, which includes developing and nurturing a true sense of empowerment and belonging for every learner no matter their race, gender, ethnicity, language, ability, family income, sexual orientation or any other social factor. We realize that questions like the one posted can be setbacks in making meaningful progress in that area.

We have taken measures to ensure the lesson is no longer available and will continue to engage our staff, our parents and our community in our work to ensure equity for all learners. Curriculum resources have been updated.”
-Georgetown ISD Office of Communications & Community Engagement

A spokesperson for the district also said the assignment has not been in circulation and has not been used otherwise. The spokesperson said it is her understanding that it was part of an older curriculum draft that was never used and simply overlooked in our files.

The spokesperson added the Civil War is a sensitive topic — in and out of school. Georgetown ISD said it is continuing to do work around equity and professional learning, including how to teach sensitive topics in ways that honor Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) while being inclusive and thoughtful to students.

The Keiths want accountability and assurance other students aren’t impacted by this. In the below handwritten letter, their daughter explained people have suffered from slavery, and she wants to make an impact in a world where people aren’t judged by their skin color.

Letter from Martine Keith's daughter explaining how the Georgetown ISD assignment made her feel (Courtesy: Martine Keith)
Letter from Martine Keith’s daughter explaining how the Georgetown ISD assignment made her feel (Courtesy: Martine Keith)

“We always taught her to stand up, if you know something is right or wrong, let us know, and she knew that this was wrong,” Martine said. “We were hoping both of our children would be able to graduate from Eastview High School [in Georgetown ISD], but that’s not the case anymore, so we are looking for another district.”

‘You’re embarrassing’: US TV personality slammed after urging boycott of Masters golf, linking it to slavery in voting row (VIDEO)

Democrat-loving Keith Olbermann, who has more than a million Twitter followers, has divided viewers by linking the Masters golf to slavery and urging sporting events and TV networks to follow baseball’s lead by shunning Georgia.

Over the course of the weekend, Olbermann, who left ESPN late last year, has posted one particular video several times.

It came as a response to baseball officials choosing to move their All-Star Game from Georgia following the passing of voting legislation that increases ID requirements for absentee voters and prohibits poll staff from offering food or beverages to those waiting in line to cast their ballots.

Costing the region over $ 100 million in lost revenue, the decision has been lamented by both the state’s governor, who has vowed to fight it, and the mayor of Georgia’s biggest city, Atlanta.

“Great. Now boycott the Masters,” Olbermann wrote on Twitter.

“Yesterday, the MLB pulled the All-Star Game out of Atlanta to protest Georgia’s new racist voting laws. An outstanding first reply to the war the racists declared on America. Next? A golf tournament starts in Georgia on Thursday.

“You think the term ‘The Masters’ was applied to a golf tournament in the former slave state of Georgia by…coincidence?” he asked later.

“After baseball moved its All-Star Game out of Atlanta, The Masters, its sponsors, and its tv networks are next.”

Olbermann has received some support for the video, although he has copped criticism from some quarters.

“Shut. Up.” he was told by former ESPN colleague Matt Barrie, who also pointed attention to the ‘Central Park Penthouse’ that he claimed the screen veteran was posting his rant from.

“Took me two seconds to find this on google you gurgling fool,” wrote a radio host, with a link to a Sports Illustrated piece on the real origins of the tournament’s name. 

Even those usually on Olbermann’s side of the fence had to point out his error.

“Keith, as a fellow Dem, I’ve gotta check you on this one. You’re embarrassing yourself and all of us. Knock it off.” demanded one follower.

Republican Kambree Kawahine Koa joked: “My friend’s last name is Masters. Do I boycott, cancel or try to ruin their lives too, like a woke liberal?”

Former professional golfer Kyle Thompson called Olbermann a “complete moron”, but others were fully supportive of his outspoken views.

“A boycott is not enough,” said one. “All companies who advertise must be boycotted.

“It’s too late this year, but [there should be] pressure on [broadcaster] CBS to break the TV contract in 2022. And if the tournament is played, the ‘limited number of patrons’ who choose to use their tickets should be exposed.”
Also on rt.com The Olbermann ‘stain’: Bigotry against Russians is perfectly fine in ‘woke’ America


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