Fifth-graders at an elementary school in South Orange, New Jersey, were asked to create slave auction posters.
The original assignment asked students to draw "examples of an event that would occur during (your) assigned colonial time period, including a poster for a lecture, speech, protest or slave auction," reports WABC.
One poster said, "All slaves raised on the plantation of John Carter," while another had a list of slaves that were available, including a 12-year-old who was described as "a fine housegirl."
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The posters stirred controversy when they were seen and photographed in a hallway at South Mountain Elementary School during parent-teacher conferences.
Jamil Karriem, a local resident, posted pictures of the posters on Facebook on March 7 with a caption:
While we pride ourselves on our towns culture of progression and acceptance, it has come to my attention that South Mountain Elementary School recently instructed its students to draw slave auction pictorials and then proceeded to hang said drawings throughout the hallways of the school.
These images were on display for all students (ages ranging from 4-10) to see, including those that would lack any context of the underlying "lesson" or "purpose." Educating young students on the harsh realities of slavery is of course not the issue here, but the medium for said education is grossly insensitive and negligent.
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In a curriculum that lacks representation for students of color, it breaks my heart that these will be the images that young black and brown kids see of people with their skin color. Furthermore, it is COMPLETELY lost on me how this project could be an effective way to teach any student in any age group about American history.
It is the responsibility of the community members to hold the board accountable for the future of our towns education.
The posters were later taken down, notes WABC.
Superintendent John Ramos told parents in writing that the assignment was part of a Colonial America lesson that has been taught for 10 years.
Reaction to the assignment was mixed among the school community.
Glenn Conover, a parent, said: "I teach my son a positive aspect of his people. The whole black history thing in schools is just crazy."
Andrea Espinoza, a caregiver, added: "It's part of history, of course. It happened. I think it's good that they know."
Principal Alyna Jacobs said: "I apologize for any unintended pain, anger or offense caused by the assignment."
The South Orange-Maplewood School District also apologized, but has not assured parents that this won't happen again. The district plans to hold a meeting to discuss the controversy.