Wrong is Wrong
The Unpaid Labor Project salutes those historians who have taken up the challenge of shining the light on all of our nation’s history. We are focused on the history of those first 12 generations of African Americans who were vital to the birth, growth and survival of the United States. That’s important because knowing the truth of our history brings us together. Even the uncomfortable truth is to be preferred to a comfortable lie.
“South Carolina made national headlines in December (2017) when Holocaust education advocates noticed that a proposed set of social studies standards for the state’s public schools made no mention of the Holocaust, Nazism or Adolf Hitler.” That is the opening sentence in an article that appeared in The Post and Courier newspaper on February 2, 2018. The Post and Courier is published in Charleston, South Carolina. Paul Bowers wrote the article. But that’s not all. He goes on to say this. “The current draft of the South Carolina Social Studies College and Career Ready Standards, which would go into effect in 2020, makes no mention of such key civil rights-era figures as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr. or Malcolm X.”
The proposed standards also ignore John C. Calhoun, the Nullification Crisis, Fort Sumter, and Robert Smalls. Fort Sumter! That’s only the place where the first shots were fired in America’s Civil War. That war began at Fort Sumter in South Carolina and over 700,000 people died in it. More people died in that war than in all other American wars-COMBINED!
Martin Luther King, Jr.? He is one of the few people in the history of our nation to be honored with a national federal holiday. That honor cost him his life. He led one of the greatest cultural movements in American history. That movement not only won civil rights for Black people. It won civil rights for all Americans. John C. Calhoun? Although he defended the institution of slavery he is an important figure in the history of South Carolina and America.
So what’s going on when people like Roberts Smalls who helped to establish South Carolina’s public school system are being left out of the state’s history books? Is it an attempt to return to the good old days of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy? It is an attempt to move on from the uncomfortable truths of the state’s history and the nation’s history?
Whatever it is historians across South Carolina are concerned about the proposed standards as they relate to civil rights and Civil War history and so are we. According to a report by Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries only 8 percent of high school seniors could identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War. Less than 50% know that slavery was legal in all 13 colonies during the American Revolution. And 39% of teachers say that their state offers little or no support for teaching about slavery.
That’s not good. We need to know the truth in order to realize the promise of a nation of freedom and justice for all.