History teacher suspended for ‘racist’ lesson about black history that showed contextual footage of people ‘blacking up’
Teacher suspended for showing young teens that white people used to ‘black up’ to imitate African Americans in 1800s as form of entertainment
Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith is a freelance reporter. She was nominated for business journalist of the year at the Press Gazette British Journalism Awards 2012 and her name is so long that she has a double-decker byline in print.
Sunday 01 June 2014
For the history teacher who was a month away from retirement, preparing for one of his last black history classes should have been a cinch.
But instead of looking forward to the end of his 36 year career with a rose-tinted hue, Alan Barron, 59, has been suspended for teaching young teens about black history.
According to Monroe News, the eighth grade teacher at Monroe Middle School in Michigan was put on paid leave two weeks ago, after he showed the students in his class a video that depicted what is widely denounced as racist today, but which was widely accepted as entertainment in the 1800s.
The video showed white people “blacking up” to imitate African Americans as a form of entertainment during a class discussing the Jim Crow racial segregation laws.
An administrator at the school found the lesson plan offensive and racist, leading to Mr Barron being suspended the next day, despite parents of the teacher’s students speaking out in support of his actions.
One parent, Adrienne Aaron, whose husband is African American, said Mr Barron was simply showing the students what had occurred in history. She told the newspaper her daughter had not been offended and that the subject needed to be discussed.
“She was more offended that they stopped the video,” Mrs Aaron told the paper. “It had nothing to do with racism. History is history. We need to educate our kids to see how far we've come in America. How is that racism?”
One student has shown their support of the history teacher by making t-shirts and distributing them, while parents have taken to social media to show how much they care.
Mr Barron is only two weeks away from retirement, but until further investigation is completed, he will remain on paid administrative leave.
His being placed on leave means that he is unable to attend functions in the school district, such as an annual banquet where retiring teachers are honoured.
Mrs Aaron said “It’s so sad this has happened to him. He’s one of the best teachers we’ve had. We can’t believe this is happening to him.”
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