Martin C. Evans: History of Slavery In New York

Roundup: Talking About History

For years, Mary K. Carter felt that New York's two-century history as a slave state was treated as an embarrassing secret, mostly ignored in school curriculums.

"Many people are surprised when you talk about slavery's existence in New York," said Carter, a Freeport resident and retired middle-school teacher in the Rockville Centre school district. "They're surprised because it's taught as something that happened in the South."

So when the education department at Hofstra University began working on a curriculum to help school children understand how the enslavement of Africans helped build New York's wealth and power, she joined the team.

That curriculum has been named this year's "exemplary social studies program" by the nation's largest association of social studies teachers.

The curriculum - a 268- page guide for teachers that includes links to Web sites, primary documents and suggested lesson plans - will be honored at the National Council for the Social Studies' 85th annual conference Nov. 19 in Kansas City, Mo.

"It gives a lot of legitimacy to the idea that slavery ought to be taught in New York," said Hofstra education professor Alan Singer, who led a team of 80 teachers and education students in producing the study guide.

Singer said the curriculum flowed from 1996 legislation directing the state Board of Regents to devote attention to three of history's injustices: the Irish Potato Famine, the Holocaust and the enslavement of Africans.

Although much course material on the Holocaust already existed, and a famine curriculum was delivered to every school in the state in 2002, disagreements over content slowed production of a curriculum on slavery.

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