Mississippi school sparks fury after telling eighth graders to ‘pretend you’re a slave on a plantation’ and ‘write a letter to your family back in Africa’ as part of ‘tone deaf’ assignment
- Eighth graders at Purvis Middle School were set task a to pretend to be slaves
- The pupils were set a writing task to explain their ‘journey to America’
- The assignment has since been blasted as ‘tone deaf’ and ‘inappropriate’
A middle school in Mississippi has been blasted after setting an ‘extremely tone deaf’ slave letter writing assignment for one of its classes.
The activity, set for a group of eighth graders at Purvis Middle School, Mississippi, on Wednesday, encouraged them to pretend to be a slave and ‘write a letter to your family back in Africa or in another American state’ about ‘the journey to America’.
It was also suggested to the pupils that they write about ‘how you pass the time when you aren’t working’, according to the Daily Beast.
A picture of the assignment was shared on Twitter by Black Lives Matter Mississippi, and their social media manager Jeremy Marquell said it was ‘not helpful. It’s hurtful’.
Purvis Middle School in Mississippi has been blasted after setting an ‘extremely tone deaf’ ‘slave letter writing’ assignment (pictured) to one of its classes
Speaking to the Daily Beast, Marquell said: ‘I don’t know how a logical person teaches this.
‘Like someone who went to school to teach children could think this exercise was helpful in any way.’
Lamar County School District Superintendent Dr. Steven Hampton told WDAM that the assignment had been the last section of a 12-slide presentation on the ‘atrocities and negatives of slavery’.
Hampton said the aim of the activity had been to show pupils how horrible slavery had been and that: ‘We do not discriminate against race.’
He also said that Purvis Middle School administrators had already spoken with the teacher who set the assignment and that further talks would be held.
Purvis Middle School did not respond to requests for comment from the Daily Beast, but in a letter to parents, seen by the outlet, Principal Frank Bunnell apologized.
The activity, set for a group of eighth graders at Purvis Middle School (pictured), encouraged them to pretend to be a slave and write about ‘the journey to America’
In the letter, he said: ‘A person could read just the assignment and draw a very unrealistic view of the true tragedies that occurred. 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.’
Also criticizing the assignment, Jarrius Adams, president of Young Democrats Mississippi, described it as ‘extremely tone deaf and inappropriate’.
He said that there are appropriate ways to approach the subject when teaching about slavery, but that this assignment wasn’t one of them.