History on Trial Campaign

As high-school students, we are learning a regressive view of history: whether it be teaching us that enslaved people were migrant workers or failing to mention slave owning U.S. presidents. Our history books are riddled with lies which perpetuate misunderstandings and ignorance. Houghton Mifflin, Macmillan McGraw-Hill, Scott Foresman, and Pearson fail to explore the United States’ prolonged history of exploitation and oppression. Students leave high-school with an incomplete and dangerous version of U.S. history.

Textbook companies are complicit in breeding ignorance of both past and present by mis-educating students. Current publishers leave out unconstitutional federal subsidization for white suburbs and erase stories of freed people and their mobilization from the reconstruction era to present day. Oftentimes, textbooks and their writers withhold the views and achievements of people of color. History Alive!, a popular high-school textbook, teaches a distorted view that segregation was solely perpetuated by Southern entities. By failing to mention the national congressional push in the ‘30s for the development of segregated suburbs in areas of “infiltration”, books gloss over federal acts of blatant discrimination towards African Americans.

As high-school students, we bear witness to killings of unarmed people of color, a perpetuation of educational inequality, and a surge in racial intolerance and violence. During this time of willful ignorance of our racist history, we continue to repeat injustices of years past. Should textbook companies continue preaching a “refined history” without detailing the nation’s extensive history of racism, our abilities as students to truly understand structural oppression and its roots are hampered, nurturing a dangerous communal ignorance. The teaching of our history must be participatory, include our powerful student voices, and flip classroom power dynamics.

The U.S. education system has been the pinpoint of resistance and struggle and students have been the driving force. As a nationwide multiracial coalition of high-school students, teachers, and people who believe in an honest history, now is the time to push for a national reckoning with the past and present. We call all textbook companies to accurately depict our history of resistance in the face of institutional oppression, racism, and violence. As such, we demand that all local and state boards of education only adopt history textbooks that:

  • Recognize political, economic, and social struggles of African Americans post emancipation against Jim Crow laws, lynchings, and the Prison Industrial Complex;
  • Detail redlining, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and other acts of discrimination perpetuated by federal and/or state governments;
  • Discuss continued systemic economic inequality and re-segregation;
  • Recognize and detail systemic mistreatment and resistance of indigenous peoples including exploitation of natural resources, continued state violence, and stolen lands;
  • Explain the impact of man-made global warming and the correlation between historic and modern environmental degradation and its disproportionate impact on people of color;
  • Label nativist immigration policies and discuss internment and mass deportations;
  • Outline colonialism through ‘manifest destiny,’ criminalization of Latinx communities, exclusion of students in schools, and destruction of Latinx languages and cultures;
  • Identify discrimination against women in the past and present not just in the context of suffrage but in the context of economic and social liberation;
  • Acknowledge LGTBQIA discrimination focusing on trans women of color;
  • Recognize the effects of the war on terror post 9/11 with regards to increased government surveillance, extensive drone strikes, and its escalation to Islamophobia.