The Challenge Of Choosing Textbooks For History Studies

From Linda Conner Lambeck, CT Post:

A textbook has been picked for the district’s new African-American studies course–but not everyone is a fan.

“The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross,” by Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Donald Yacovone, is being criticized by some for not starting with pre-slavery times.

“Our history doesn’t start here,” said community member JoAnn Kennedy. “This book starts here in America. We have history before that.”

Bridgeport became only the second school district in the country to require all students starting with the Class of 2022 to take a half-year course in African-American Studies, Caribbean/Latin-American Studies or Perspectives on Race to graduate.

Full story here.



  1. As a community white elder who attempts to be a lifetime learner, I am happy that initiative in regard to learning African-American history has resulted in upcoming classes in fall 2018. I have read and seen work produced by Gates working with others, though not this $15.46 text. Ms. Kennedy has observed that African pre-slavery culture needs study as well, but the schools have provided for four hundred years in one semester and the slavery segment may speak louder to all Americans today, than the more distant history, in terms of where we need to act as a society where failure to deal with past errors continues to this day. Will this be an opportunity for Bridgeport residents (outside of school age) to read and discuss this text and find implications for action today? Time will tell.

    1. If we are going to have African studies and latin american studies lets also have courses for Irish, Polish and every other nationality in this country. You talk about rekindling segregation and racism this course of studies will do it. More Liberal Bullshit

      1. European history is covered in social studies, Andy, the migration of Poles, Italians, Irish, Jews, Hungarians, Dutch, Germans, Vikings, etc. Many African-Americans are descended from people that were brought here in chains, forced into slavery and then discriminated against once they were emancipated. African-Americans have made notable contributions to American culture, science, law and medicine, in spite of the discrimination.

        Given that one third of Bridgeport’s population is black it will serve the entire city if their history is taught in public schools.

  2. Ms. Kennedy is quite right. The only ethnic group that began here are the native tribes. The rest of us came from Europe, Africa, Asia, the near and middle East.

  3. Derek, I read the article and I didn’t see where Ms. Kennedy said the only ethnic group that began here were native tribes and if she did indeed she is totally wrong about that ascertain.

    Contrary to popular belief, African American history did not start with slavery in the New World. An overwhelming body of new evidence is emerging which proves that Africans had frequently sailed across the Atlantic to the Americas, thousands of years before Columbus and indeed before Christ. The great ancient civilizations of Egypt and West Africa traveled to the Americas, contributing immensely to early American civilization by importing the art of pyramid building, political systems and religious practices as well as mathematics, writing and a sophisticated calendar.

    I would suggest that Ms. Kennedy, you and others at the very least research the history of this America because much have been written on this subject matter and you can’t teach African American history without knowing all that is America’s history.

  4. Africans not only came before Columbus, but were in the Americans far before any other group, at least 60,000 years ago. Do not forget the Egyptians. They were also here far before the Vikings or Columbus. They left structures above and below the waves in far away places in North America. From the East to the West Coasts; from the valleys to mountain tops that still carry their names.

  5. One of the biggest problems history school books is where they are made and especially those who write the history. The State of Texas is a major source of misleading American school. Here are just a example:

    5.The picking and choosing. In the new textbooks, students will be required to read the inaugural address by Confederate President Jeff Davis. That’s fine. Of course people should read the Davis speech — how else will they get a full view of history? The problem is that students will not have to read the infamous speech given by his vice president, Alexander Stephens. While the Davis speech alludes to slavery so delicately — never even mentioning the word — that it backs up the contention that the big issue that tore this country apart was states rights, not slavery, it’s hard to miss what Stephens meant. Specifically:
    “Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.”

    So yeah, in this case having a class read one speech given at the Confederate inauguration while skipping the other is kind of a big deal, since it changes the entire slant of what the war was about.
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    4. The KKK and Jim Crow laws have been revised right out of the history book. Seriously. There’s no mention of the Ku Klux Klan, the group that rose up during Reconstruction and was really into racism, white supremacy and those distinctive white sheet costumes. As far as future Texas school children know, none of that happened, and everybody got along swimmingly after the Civil War. In fact, anyone reading these books today will be rather confused. It’s hard to make sense of Brown vs. Board of Education, of the Civil Rights movement, of Martin Luther King Jr. and even Ferguson and the South Carolina shootings if you don’t know — because it’s not mentioned in the textbooks — about the Jim Crow laws that created racial segregation in all public facilities in the South from Reconstruction right up until 1965. And yet, none of this gets a mention. Yeah, it looked like a gross oversight before and now it has lurched over into grotesque.

    3. The Civil War wasn’t even about slavery. Yep, the State Board of Education really outdid themselves on this one. During the Textbook Wars, the board was on a mission to remove the “liberal bias” from the Texas curriculum. That meant correcting — or whatever — the record to show that the Civil War was really fought over states rights. Board member Pat Hardy claimed that slavery was “a side issue to the Civil War” and somehow she said it and it has appeared, like magic, in the new social studies textbooks. Aside from being an oversimplification of a complicated issue — because there were a ton of issues — it’s insane to try and pretend that millions in slavery had nothing to do with the bloodiest war in American history. And yet that’s exactly what the books are claiming.

    2. The whole segregation thing wasn’t that big a deal. Brown v. Board of Education only happened because sometimes “the buildings, buses, and teachers for the all-black schools were lower in quality,” according to McGraw-Hill’s new Texas-inspired social studies textbook “United States Government.” It seems that the State Board of Education’s interpretation of history (they’d have done better if they actually hired cats to do an interpretive dance of all of history for every Texas student) has concluded that Jim Crow laws totally didn’t place almost insurmountable educational burdens on black students. According to this reasoning, the bitter opposition to desegregation wasn’t even an issue, and they don’t even bother mentioning that one school district in Odessa, Texas wasn’t even considered properly desegregated until 2010. Because that’s all a part of the “liberal bias.”

    1. These textbooks will end up being used by school children across the country. That’s the thing, in spite of the glaring oversights that appear in these new textbooks, it probably wouldn’t be such a big deal to the rest of the country if they weren’t going to end up with the exact same textbooks themselves. Texas is the second largest textbook market in the country — after California — so publishers tend to cater to Texas State Board of Education requirements when writing the textbooks. That was less of an issue before the Textbook Wars got started, but publishers have duly gone along with the State Board of Education and written textbooks with an eye toward meeting the state requirements. Hence why, just as everyone is talking about the Confederate flag and issues of race in the wake of South Carolina, Texas gets to be the state that is going one step further and teaching the whole war to free the slaves as the war of Northern aggression. President Abraham Lincoln is lucky he’s in the books at all.

    Dianna Wray, a nationally award-winning journalist, is a staff writer at the Houston Press.
    “Here’s How New Texas Public School Textbooks Write About Slavery”

    1. It disgusts me that educators still beat the “state’s rights” drum in defining the Civil War. It was about “cotton, fieldhands and arrogance,” to quote Rhett Butler.

  6. Ms. Kennedy is absolutely correct in asserting that the “roots” – pre-slavery, root heritage – of the people of a present culture most recently shaped by the experience of the abuse, oppression, and psychological impressions wrought of the bitter experience of slavery, needs to be taught as an essential component — the foundation/platform – of the history of that culture…
    If the descendants of black slaves in America are only “enlightened” about the bitter, psychologically- stultifying experience related to the evolvement of their culture and present status as a disadvantaged minority in their present “homeland,” they will be receiving an incomplete record that could prejudice their own perceptions regarding their individual and collective potential, and, in conjunction with the related deprivation of the unified presentation of the record of their unique, pre-slavery, African cultural heritage (with the inclusion of its history of survivalistic, technological, and cultural triumphs), they will effectively be denied the individual and cultural, positive momentum that such information would provide…
    All cultures energize their people through the history of the accomplishments of their outstanding individuals in the context of their collective accomplishments and triumphs as a people… Such cultural history is even more essential to the psychological and cultural well-being of peoples recovering form such bitter collective experiences as slavery and holocaust… Black America certainly needs and deserves to know their pre-Columbian history of cultural growth and success as Africans…
    Indeed: Those of us that were around in the 70’s remember the great positive energy – and emotions – engendered among blacks (and I dare say, even among whites) by the release of the factually-based novel by Alex Haley, “Roots” that described his family’s experience from their status as free Africans in their homeland to enslaved Africans in the cruelest of circumstances in America – ending with Alex Haley’s actual return to his ancestral homeland and a meeting with the descendants of his forebear’s people that had been described and kept in the family’s verbal history for over two-hundred years… Recall how that novel, and TV series based on that novel, riveted the attention of all of America even as it created positive energy throughout the whole culture…
    No: Ms. Kennedy is correct; this necessary course of study in our high schools should not be taught in the context of only the slave experience. It must logically and fairly include the positive, pre-slavery component of African-American history…
    And Donald: There is no reliable evidence to back up your claims of ancient, cross-continental influence on Native American culture and technological accomplishment… The evidence supports unique and original technological and cultural advancements accomplished in isolation by the pre-Columbian Americans… You shouldn’t undermine the unique accomplishments of the pre-Columbian Americans (of Asian origin) through references to spurious, speculative “history” presented by money-grubbing sensationalists… (Ditto for the contributions of space aliens to Earthling culture and accomplishment…) As grumpy Andy would say; “Pure and utter bull-shit!” …

  7. Jeff Kohut, you don’t know what you are talking about when you challenge Donald Day with your comment, “Donald: There is no reliable evidence to back up your claims of ancient, cross-continental influence on Native American culture and technological accomplishment… The evidence supports unique and original technological and cultural advancements accomplished in isolation by the pre-Columbian Americans…” Ivan Van Sertima published a very ground breaking book, “They Came Before Columbus” which showed that black people had travelled to the Americas well before Columbus claimed to have discovered America. He offers archaeological evidence in Mexico and some of Columbus’ writing that help to support his assertion.

    “They Came Before Columbus: Early Evidence of African Presence in the Americas”
    By Editor –
    February 20, 2012

  8. Jeff, while I’ll acknowledge your belief in your keen intellect your are wrong as two left shoes when you challenge my ascertain about Africans coming to America thousands of years ahead of Columbus and put it in the same vain as space aliens is offensive and pure unadulterated Bull SHIT.

    May I suggest that you quit patting yourself on the back because of your perceived intellect and understand that you don’t know everything. Typical white man who thinks he knows more about anything than everybody. Start right here in your pursuit for educational enlightenment. The fact that you chose to quote Andy speaks volumes to your pseudo intelligence.

  9. Donald; The scant “evidence” from your book/author’s review speaks only to the talents of an author as wordsmith… The similarities between calendars and building structures cited as “evidence” in the review speaks only to similar thinking and scientific observation by isolated peoples — which is common throughout history… Look at all of the isolated cultures that developed unique writing and language (similar trends in communication-ability development)… And ancient sculpted portrayals of humans and other creatures are often more caricature than real… I didn’t see any reference to “hard” evidence (an ancient boat, books, bones), and I have read many other similar bs claims by other talented bs-artists…

    Stick to “real” history Donald… No ancient (pre-Columbian transoceanic technological or cultural exchange by Europeans or Africans with the Americas (maybe Leif Ericson picked some grapes in Maine a thousand years ago…) — or space aliens… Didn’t happen. Pure an utter bs… Check out some real history on Africa and the Americas — it’s more interesting and gratifying…

    1. Ron Mackey // Mar 25, 2018 at 10:35 am
      Jeff Kohut, you don’t know what you are talking about when you challenge Donald Day with your comment, “Donald: There is no reliable evidence to back up your claims of ancient, cross-continental influence on Native American culture and technological accomplishment… The evidence supports unique and original technological and cultural advancements accomplished in isolation by the pre-Columbian Americans…” Ivan Van Sertima published a very ground breaking book, “They Came Before Columbus” which showed that black people had travelled to the Americas well before Columbus claimed to have discovered America. He offers archaeological evidence in Mexico and some of Columbus’ writing that help to support his assertion.

      “They Came Before Columbus: Early Evidence of African Presence in the Americas”
      By Editor –
      February 20, 2012

  10. Jeff, is the evidence scant or nonexistent or is it beyond your scope of if you didn’t say it, it must be wrong. My degree is in African studies and yours?

      1. Mackey here you go again mentioning White again. losing another arguement/ So lets bring out the white card. Mackey in case you have not noticed I am smarter than you and so is Jeff. Before you write anything check with the all knowing Donald Day so you can get your facts straight.

          1. Gotcha dumb ass why dont you come out of the mountains and shut me up. Dumb ass. If blacks discovered the world how did you fuck it up like this

  11. Donald (and Ron): My training is in the physical and social sciences. But I am also a history buff – with a particlular interest in Native American history (and to a significant, but lesser extent, Slavic, and African history, in that order…). (And your “white is right” comment is just incongruous and inappropriate in this discussion… And uncalled for…)

    I guess that my reaction to your assertions of significant influence on pre-Columbian, Native American culture and technology by others (e.g., Africans, Europeans) had a less than positive tone. I didn’t mean to offend, but I find it frustrating to see such spurious claims repeated in the face of absolutely no physical evidence… It is based on weakly-defended speculation and conjecture (and unfairly denies the unique contributions of Native American civilization to the collective advance of world progress…).

    In the absence of any really strong circumstantial evidence (e.g., at least a datable phrase on the wall of an ancient Mayan or Inca pyramid written in hieroglyphics or ancient Greek, or Cuneiform, or some such readily identifiable, ancient script) I feel free to call the speculation of the aforementioned “historians” concerning cross-oceanic influences on pre-Columbian, Native American culture/technology pure speculation/conjecture/bs…

    And in the absence of any datable, ancient Caucasian or Negroid skeletons/bones associated with the ancient pre-Columbian, Native American settlements, or some identifiable, datable, ancient artifacts (tools, clothing, boats/boat remnants) associated with known African or European civilzations, I feel compelled to call the claims of African or European influence in ancient Native American civilization bs… It would have taken a lot of presence, over many years, by such foreign travelers, to exert any significant influence on Native American civilization… Absolutely no evidence of that…
    Has any DNA evidence been retrieved from ancient, Native American mummies or skeletons that would indicate a prolonged, ancient European or African presence in the Americas?
    The answer is no…

    Conclusion: The aforementioned “historians” asserting ancient European or African influences on Native American culture/technology are, plain and simple, full of bs…

    My training compels me to rely on logically-applicable physical or very strong “folk” evidence (clearly interpretable verbal or graphic folklore) to accept assertions as fact or strongly indicative of probable fact… There is no such physical or folklore evidence involved in the assertions of the aforementioned “historians” …

    Now; just a for a relevant point in fact: The well-known, advanced metallurgical technology of the ancient, black, Western African civilizations is fascinating and much more germane to what might be included in the proposed Black Studies curriculum of the Bridgeport school system …

    Sorry if I offended, but my training just won’t let me countenance historical bs-conjecture/speculation as fact… No space alien influence on our technology… No Martian blood in our human gene-pool… No Atlantis… No ancient, cross-oceanic influence from Europe or Africa in the ancient Americas…

  12. Anecdotal evidence, evidence collected in a casual or informal manner and relying heavily or entirely on personal testimony. … Accurate determination of whether an anecdote is “typical” requires statistical evidence. What else you got so-called expert of everything?

    1. Don, you got that right, Jeff gives no supporting evidence of his claims. I wonder if Jeff knows anything about blacks and the Catholic Church or the history of blacks and black Pope’s in the Vatican where there is real evidence?

  13. Ron: Of course there is a rich, African component to Catholic Church history, with one of the greatest popes in Church history – Saint Augustine, perhaps the greatest intellectual/scholar/author in the history of the Roman Catholic Church – being one of the outstanding examples… Augustine’s voluminous works (which form the basis of much of modern church theology) and the wealth of references to Augustine in the works of his scholar/historian/theologian contemporaries (including innumerable biographical tomes on the former), from within and without of the church, are a major part of the rich, modern historical record of the early church and latter days of the Roman Empire… (And, interestingly, as you know, there is a rich and ancient component of black, Jewish history, vis a vis the Ethiopian Queen (of Sheba), Agame, who was married to King Solomon (hence the modern exodus of Ethiopian Jewry to modern Israel, which we witnessed, via the media, within the last generation…).
    These things (Augustine, Agame, ancient and modern Ethiopian Jews) are real and can’t be rationally denied or disputed, unlike Atlantis, space-alien forbears of earthlings, and mass, trans-oceanic transport of European and African engineers who, some would have us believe, taught the pre-Columbian Americans (North and South) how to do math, create calendars, and build pyramids, even though there isn’t a shred of solid evidence to back it up… (Isn’t it more rational to give them – the pre-Columbian Americans – credit for having figured out these things for themselves?!)
    Anyway, Ron and Don… Good night!

  14. African Popes:
    Pope Victor I – Feast Day July 28th
    A native of Africa, Miltiades (also Melchiades) was elected pope in 311 to fill the vacancy left by the banishment of Pope Eusebius in 309. Pope Militades and Pope Gelasius.

    “Pope Francis I and Benedict XVI praying to a Black Madonna”


  15. Hold on now. You’re all wrong.
    Everyone knows that extra-terrestrial aliens influenced pre-Colombian civilizations.
    It’s been on the History Channel.


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