A Georgia Middle School Is Trying to Avoid Offending White People While Teaching the Civil War

Parents in Johns Creek, Georgia are upset about a middle school visual rhetoric assignment that asked students to identify and analyze features of a Reconstruction-era editorial cartoon depicting blacks in a situation that is “worse than slavery,” WSBTV reports.

The cartoon, drawn by lifelong abolitionist Thomas Nast and published in the October 24, 1874 issue of Harper’s Weekly, depicts a member of the Ku Klux Klan and a member of the White League shaking hands over a cowering black family. In the background, a black man can be seen hanging from a tree. The image is intended to represent the position that even though institutionalized slavery no longer existed, there were still quasi-governmental structures — like the KKK and the White League — that prevented blacks from enjoying the freedom promised to them.

Parents at the Johns Creek school, however, see it differently. 

“It looks like a Ku Klux Klan flyer of a lynching,” Emzie Glass told WSBTV. Another parent, Jeff Royster, agreed, saying that “I thought that was pretty over the top for an eighth-grader to have to handle.” 

Both Glass and Royster claim that this is merely the latest in a string of racially insensitive lesson plans devised by the school’s eighth grader social studies teacher. 

“He had made a comment that slavery should have not ended with a war, but should have ended with just sentiments in the South changing,” Royster said. “They’re teaching the things that don’t offend whites.”

Fulton County schools spokeswoman Susan Hale told WSBTV that the district had been made aware of Glass and Royster’s complaints, but that it had not been able to substantiate claims that there had been a pattern of racially insensitive lesson planning by this teacher.

Fulton County Schools released a statement in which it defended the teaching of the cartoon, but acknowledge that it could have been presented in a more culturally sensitive manner. 

“The political cartoon was included in a packet of class materials about the Civil War and Reconstruction,” the statement read. “In retrospect, we regret that it was not shared with students in a more culturally sensitive way and that families were not given the proper context for the material. We are reviewing this situation so we can learn from it.”

Watch a report via WSBTV below.

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