McGraw-Hill Textbook Implies Slaves Were Paid For Work

McGraw-Hill has a World Geography textbook for ninth graders in which, in a section called “Patterns of Immigration,” they write, “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and the 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the Southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”


Calling enslaved people merely “workers” implies they were paid for their labor. At the very least it diminishes what the the enslaved people went through.

McGraw-Hill made this statement on their Facebook page: “This week, we became aware of a concern regarding a caption reference to slavery on a map in one of our world geography programs. This program addresses slavery in the world in several lessons and meets the learning objectives of the course. However, we conducted a close review of the content and agree that our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves. We believe we can do better. To communicate these facts more clearly, we will update this caption to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor. These changes will be reflected in the digital version of the program immediately and will be included in the program’s next print run. McGraw-Hill Education is committed to developing the highest quality educational materials and upholding the academic integrity of our products. We value the insight the public brings to discussions of our content.”

Many activists are calling for all the books to be recalled immediately and replaced. It seems to me they could fix it by sending out stickers with corrected text to paste into the books in class without recalling all textbooks. Of course, that wouldn’t change the fact that they have the slave trade in an “immigration” section, but if we think about it, while it was forced immigration it was still an immigration, albeit against the will of the enslaved people and done brutally. This being a geography book, I think they could be forgiven for counting it as a type of immigration. I don’t think we can let them slide for calling enslaved people “workers.”



  1. Example No. 23,843 of how Texas public education has failed its students.

    The K-12 curriculum here is approved by a board that has few people on it with any significant background in either professional education or specific academic disciplines. The current chairperson has degrees in financial management and counseling (the latter from Liberty University), and spent the last decade as a GOP organizer and campaign manager in Harris County (Houston). The vice chairman is identified in his official, online biography as “a governmental relations consultant and lobbyist.” Like every other part of state government, the State Board of Education is highly politicized, and that gets reflected in the curricula they approve — not just in social studies, but in every discipline as well.

    1. Sad state of affairs, Andy.

    2. Jimmy Dick · · Reply

      David Barton. Enough said.

      1. Jimmy, what evidence is there that David Barton had anything to do with this text?

        1. I think Jimmy meant that Barton is symptomatic of the way the historical record gets mangled here. He’s as much a product of it, and a producer of it.

          1. Okay, but isn’t that more likely to lead to confusion rather than understanding, Andy? If Mr. Barton wasn’t involved in this book then I don’t see why we bring up his name and say “Enough said.” I think it’s nowhere near enough said.

          2. Jimmy Dick · ·

            David Barton is a slimy piece of work. He has a BA in religious education from Oral Roberts University. He runs the Wallbuilders group to purvey his ideological fantasies as actual history to an unsuspecting public. In 2009 he was appointed as a Social Studies expert panel member by the Texas State Board of Education and with Peter Marshall, another far from expert on history member.

            You can read more about him here:

            My point of mentioning his name is that Texas is well known for appointing people on the basis of politics instead of qualifications. Barton is a perfect example of a man who has been caught lying about history on many occasions in order to advance his warped ideology which is definitely not in line with the US Constitution. Why anyone would want a guy who is a pathological liar serving on any board connected to education is beyond me. By the way, I stand by the word “liar.” Barton not only has lied about history, he has lied repeatedly about his own accomplishments, credentials, and life. He starts to talk and the fact checker goes off like it does at a Republican presidential debate.

            You can find more on the odious Barton and his mangling of history here:

          3. Okay, but I don’t think he wrote this book. Do we have any evidence that he forced the textbook writers to put this statement in the book?

          4. Jimmy Dick · ·

            I have no idea if he was involved with the textbook or not. He has his fingers in a lot of stuff and textbook revision was one of the things he did. My point was to show that Texas is well known for doing what Andy pointed out. They don’t care about education in Texas as much as they care about indoctrination when it comes to history.

            David Barton is not a historian and not qualified to serve on any state board of education when it comes to history education.

  2. RedHeadedBookLover · · Reply

    This is such an amazing post. I really love your blog so much and in turn cannot stop reading all of your posts!

    1. Thanks very much.

      1. RedHeadedBookLover · · Reply

        You’re so welcome!

  3. BorderRuffian · · Reply

    “The Atlantic SLAVE TRADE between the 1500s and the 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the Southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”

    “Calling enslaved people merely ‘workers’ implies they were paid for their labor.”

    Reading “Slave Trade” I would probably get (or should get) the implication they were slaves and not paid for their labor.


    I believe it was more in the range of 500,000+/- brought to the Southern US.

    1. And you probably think they were lucky to get “cradle to grave care,” right?

      The fact that they conflated the millions of slaves who existed in the US in 1860 with the number of slaves who were brought to the US is only one of the many problems the book has, not the least of which is the implication of their words that the enslaved people were compensated for their labor.

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