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A teacher works with high school students

A teacher (in blue) works with high school students at Manor New Tech High School in Manor, Texas. (Photo: Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc/Corbis via Getty Images)

Texas Panel Denounced Over Attempt to Rebrand Slavery as 'Involuntary Relocation'

One progressive group called the proposal "a blatant attempt to whitewash history to fit a racist worldview."

Brett Wilkins

Racial justice advocates on Thursday denounced a proposal by a panel of Texas educators to describe slavery as "involuntary relocation" in the state's revised second-grade social studies curriculum as part of an effort to comply with a law restricting how the United States' history of white supremacy is taught.

The Texas Tribune reports a working group of nine educators proposed the change as the Texas State Board of Education considers curriculum changes in the wake of the passage of what critics have called the "white discomfort" law.

Part of the proposed curriculum states that students should "compare journeys to America, including voluntary Irish immigration and involuntary relocation of African people during colonial times."

According to the Tribune:

Human rights attorney Qasim Rashid blasted the nine educators' proposal as "unhinged white supremacy," while an online progressive group said it's "a blatant attempt to whitewash history to fit a racist worldview."

Last year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, signed S.B. 3, a law requiring the teaching of "both sides" of historical events and issues including slavery, white supremacy, and the Ku Klux Klan. The legislation also bars educators from making students feel "discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress" on account of their race. The law restricts how issues of race, slavery, Indigenous genocide, and systemic racism can be taught.

Abbott also approved a 2021 law establishing the 1836 Project to promote "Texas values" and "patriotic education." Under the law, public school teachers are required to "give deference to both sides" when discussing historical and current events.

Slavery had been officially abolished in Texas—then part of Mexico—by Afro-Mexican President Vicente Guerrero in 1830. By that time, Anglo-American immigrants, many of them Southerners who brought slaves with them, were upsetting the demographic and cultural balance in Texas and were subsequently banned, becoming undocumented immigrants.

The Texians, as they called themselves, fought a successful revolution and in 1836 declared an independent republic whose economy depended heavily upon slave labor and the ethnic cleansing and subjugation of Indigenous and Mexican people. Texas' 1836 constitution legalized slavery, outlawed emancipation, and barred free Black people from citizenship or from establishing permanent residency.

Nearly a decade later, Texas joined the United States as a slave state. The annexation was a major catalyst for the 1846 U.S. invasion of Mexico and subsequent conquest of more than half of its territory.

Slaves in coastal Texas—which was part of the Confederacy during the Civil War—were among the last to be emancipated; the federal Juneteenth holiday celebrated on June 19 marks the day when enslaved Black people in Galveston were informed by invading Union forces that they were "free."

Texas' "white discomfort" law—which nominally applies to all races—was widely viewed as a rebuke of critical race theory (CRT) and the 1619 Project, which was developed by New York Times journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones that "aims to reframe the country's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of the United States' national narrative."

The burgeoning reckoning with the nation's racist foundation has fueled intense right-wing backlash, including Florida's "white discomfort" law, a wave of state-level CRT bans, and former President Donald Trump's ahistorical 1776 Project.

Texas Republicans—who earlier this year criminalized gender-affirming healthcare for transgender youth—are also vowing to advance a version of Florida's so-called "Don't Say Gay or Trans" law targeting elementary school teachers.

This isn't the first time Texas educators have tried to redefine slavery. In 2015, a state-approved social studies textbook called African slaves "workers." The book's publisher, McGraw-Hill Education, subsequently revised the text.

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