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Parents upset over racially-charged cartoon in Civil War lesson | News

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Parents upset over racially-charged cartoon in Civil War lesson

FULTON COUNTY, Ga. -- A Johns Creek school is apologizing over a racially-insensitive political cartoon included in a lesson on the Civil War.

The cartoon was given to eighth-grade students at River Trail Middle School in a packet about the Civil War and Reconstruction, according to Fulton County Schools spokesperson Susan Hale.

The drawing, with the caption "Worse Than Slavery," depicts a Ku Klux Klan member shaking hands with a White League member over a black family. It also shows what appears to be a lynching and has the words "This is a white man's government."

(Click here to see the full, unedited image. Warning: Some may find the image disturbing)

After some parents complained, Hale issued a statement saying:

"The political cartoon was included in a packet of class materials about the Civil War and Reconstruction. In retrospect, we regret that it was not shared with students in a more culturally sensitive way and that families were not given the proper context for the material. We are reviewing this situation so we can learn from it."

Only one class received the cartoon.

Enzie Glass feels the cartoon is a part of history, but it is too much for a fourteen year old to see.

"Let's say if this was a sexual health class, you wouldn't go and show the kids a porno movie," he said.

The image is titled "Worse Than Slavery" and was drawn in 1874 to shock readers of Harper's Weekly. Its artist was Thomas Nast, one of the first political cartoonist. He drew it to spotlight a violent South during Reconstruction.

The website history.org describes the cartoon as follows:

"Though institutional slavery had been dismantled, the struggles of African Americans were far from over. Discrimination, intimidation, and violence against African Americans was common in many parts of the country, especially in the South, where groups like those depicted here not only used political influence to curtail the rights of African Americans but also intimidation, arson, and lynching. Meanwhile, state and local governments made laws designed to circumvent the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution, setting up poll taxes, literacy tests, and segregation laws. Here, Nast is making an emotionally-charged statement about the state of the nation—that the environment created by racist groups has made the African American experience during Reconstruction worse than slavery."

The cartoon is historic, but the question comes down to is this a valid image for an 8th grader?

"It kindof gives me the impression that these guys are going to lynch the couple you see here," Glass said.

An accompanying worksheet asks students to list what they see in the cartoon and explain the symbolism

"It's being beaten in to them hey you were slaves," Glass said.

He and other parents of students in that class are meeting to talk about the issue among themselves on Sunday.


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