A Mississippi middle school is taking heat over a “slave letter writing” assignment that asked a group of mostly white students to “discuss the journey to America” or “tell about the family you live with.”
The assignment at Purvis Middle School also gave students the option to write about “how you pass your time when you aren’t working,” according to a report by the Daily Beast.
“I don’t know how a logical person teaches this,” Jeremy Marquell, social media manager for Black Lives Matter Mississippi told the outlet.
“Like someone who went to school to teach children could think this exercise was helpful in any way,” he said. “It’s not helpful. It’s hurtful.”
Jarrius Adams, president of Young Democrats Mississippi, called the assignment “extremely tone deaf and inappropriate.”
“If I were a parent of a student in the classroom I would be pissed,” Adams said. “There are proper ways to educate students about the history of this nation. This was not one of them.”
The school and the Lamar County School District did not respond to requests for comments from the Daily Beast.
But in a letter to parents obtained by the outlet, middle school Principal Frank Bunnell acknowledged the assignment was part of an eighth grade history lesson and apologized for “something like this happening under my watch.”
But he said the outrage took the assignment out of context.
“A person could read just the assignment and draw a very unrealistic view of the true tragedies that occurred,” Bunnell wrote. “That was not intended.”
“However, the intent does not excuse anything,” he added. There is no excuse to downplay a practice that (even after abolished) spurs unjust laws, unfair economic practices, inhumane treatment, and suppression of people.”
About 12 million Africans were kidnapped and enslaved in the Americas. More than 2 million of them are believed to have died during the journey across the Atlantic Ocean — which is known as the Middle Passage.
While about half of Mississippi’s public school population is black, the student body at the Purvis Middle School is approximately 80 percent white, the Daily Beast said.