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Teaching Tolerance awards fellowships for slavery education project

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project announced today the recipients of 11 research fellowships as part of a multi-year initiative to improve the teaching of slavery in K-12 schools across the nation.

The recipients – selected in partnership with five colleges and universities – will curate historical documents and other teaching materials on American slavery to provide teachers with a readily-available resource of free, trusted and well-researched materials about the topic. The graduate students will spend their spring semester conducting the research.

“Children’s reading books and textbooks have increasingly been criticized for their treatment and portrayal of American slavery,” said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. “When it comes to slavery, we see too many instances of the subject being glossed over, minimized or completely distorted. It’s a problem that leaves teachers without meaningful tools to teach this important period in American history.”

In 2015, a McGraw-Hill Education geography textbook came under fire for describing enslaved Africans as “workers.” Months later, Scholastic Inc. was forced to pull a children’s book depicting slaves as happy and eager to please their owners. Many K-12 educators also are not aware of the dramatic changes in scholarship about slavery published in the last two decades.

The fellowship awardees are Ran Cronin and Zoe Quinn (Salem State University); Rebecca Kuss and Abdul-Qadir Islam (University of Pennsylvania); Colin McConarty (Boston College); Carly Muetterties, Ryan Lewis and Kenny Stancil (University of Kentucky); and Lauren Henley, Brandon Wilson and Zoe Sissac (Washington University-St. Louis).

Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. It produces and distributes anti-bias education resources at no cost to teachers, including Teaching Tolerance magazine, online curricula and professional development resources, and multimedia teaching kits that introduce students to various civil rights issues.