Afi-Odelia Scruggs: The Miseducation of Texas School Kids

Roundup: Talking About History

[Afi-Odelia E. Scruggs is a writer in Cleveland.]

See, a bunch of guys needed something to do in 1865 and 1866, right after the Civil War. It wasn't like they could go back to their plantations; Northerners had seen to that. So these good ole boys amused themselves by dressing up in sheets and riding through the countryside pulling pranks. Just good, clean hijinks, until they discovered their antics terrorized former slaves. Then, things turned naughty and nasty.

But in the beginning, the Klan was just a social club.

How do I know this? I learned it in school.

Tennessee history was a required subject in the '60s, when I was a student. The Klan was founded in Pulaski, Tenn., a small town about 90 miles south of Nashville, my hometown.

Here's what the lessons omitted: The first Grand Wizard of the Klan, Confederate general and native Tennessean Nathan Bedford Forrest, made millions as a slave trader....

...[M]iseducation allows myth to masquerade as truth. That's why Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week in 1928. Black teachers knew African-American history was revolutionary and dangerous; that's why they devotedly observed the week for decades....

Before integration, our teachers were limited to reaching Negro students in Negro schools. Now, however, the nation pays attention to African-American history when February comes. Call it an "unintended consequence" of the civil rights movement. The crossover of Black History Month has forged a powerful weapon that must be wielded to ensure students are educated, not miseducated.

I know how pervasive miseducation can be. When I was about 10, my mother told me Japanese-Americans had been interned during WWII.

I told her I didn't believe her--because it wasn't in my schoolbook.

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