Why Schools Fail To Teach Slavery’s ‘Hard History’

By Cory Turner

An article from NPR discusses American education and why it fails to teach slavery’s ‘hard history.’

“‘In the ways that we teach and learn about the history of American slavery,’ write the authors of a news report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), ‘the nation needs an intervention.'”

“The report lays out several key “problems” with the way slavery is often presented to students. Among them:

1. Textbooks and teachers tend to accentuate the positive
2. Slavery is often described as a Southern problem
3. Slavery depended on the ideology of white supremacy
4. Too often, ‘the varied, lived experience of enslaved people is neglected.'”

There is a quiz at the end that can test your knowledge of American slavery. The article discusses the results among high school seniors as “dismal,” as of the 1,000  seniors surveyed only 8% cited slavery as the reason the south seceded.

I thought I’d share this article because it highlights an issue with  American k-12 schools in how they teach history, and this may be the reason many of us are taking this class.

Medical Bondage

Julie Hawks interviews historian Deidre Cooper Owens about her new book, Medical Bondage: Race, Gender, and the Origins of American Gynecology

In Medical Bondage, Cooper Owens examines a wide range of scientific literature and less formal communications in which gynecologists created and disseminated medical fictions about their patients, such as their belief that black enslaved women could withstand pain better than white “ladies.”

Julie Hawks: Did you face any challenges conceiving of, researching, writing, revising, publishing, or promoting this book? If so, please share those challenges and how you overcame them? 

Deirdre Cooper Owens: The biggest challenge I faced was trying to eradicate all of the voices I absorbed from well-intentioned colleagues, editors, friends, writing group members, and former professors who had competing ideas about how I was to write Medical Bondage.  Once I learned to trust myself, I found it difficult to isolate and amplify the voice of enslaved and Irish immigrant women whose stories and experiences were contained within medical narratives written by white male doctors.

Beyond the Slave Trade, The Cadaver Trade

By Daina Ramey Berry

Beyond the Slave Trade, the Cadaver Trade

“The topic of slavery features prominently in each February’s reflections on African-American history. But when it comes to this darkest time in our country’s past, experts are still discovering horrors that have not yet made their way into history books.

One shocking fact that’s recently come to light: Major medical schools used slave corpses, acquired through an underground market in dead bodies, for education and research.

Yes, there was a robust body-snatching industry in which cadavers — mostly the bodies of black people, many of whom had been enslaved when they were alive — were used at Harvard, the Universities of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and other institutions.”