Liberals worried about textbook objections forget about Sambo and the KKK

tags: education, textbooks, KKK

Jonathan Zimmerman, who teaches education and history at the University of Pennsylvania, is the author (with Emily Robertson) of  The Case for Contention: Teaching Controversial Issues in American Schools (University of Chicago Press, 2017). Thumbnail Image -  PD-US

Hey, check out those yahoos in Florida! They’re censoring textbooks!

My fellow progressives have worked themselves into a good liberal lather over a new law in Florida that allows citizens to object to books assigned in the public schools. Promoted by conservative activists, who accused textbooks of fostering left-wing propaganda, the measure lets anyone in the state raise concerns about teaching materials and entitles those who object to a public hearing of their complaints.

Liberals immediately raised the specter of censorship, worrying that schools would purge information about sex, evolution, and climate change. But we should applaud rather than resist the popular scrutiny of textbooks, which has been a force for social justice and equality in other key moments in our past.

If you think otherwise, I’ve got three words for you: Little Black Sambo.

Remember Sambo? He was the jolly, ostensibly “Indian” figure who dotted the pages of elementary school readers and spellers for much of American history. But he was really a slave, and a happy one at that. “Sambo” was racist shorthand for a docile and childlike African American who cheerily accepted his subjugation to the white master.

He’s gone from our textbooks, thankfully. And the reason is — you guessed it — citizen pressure on the schools. Starting in the 1940s, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other African American organizations issued a steady drumbeat of protest against Little Black Sambo and other types of racism in textbooks. ...

Read entire article at

comments powered by Disqus