The public outcry against racism has caused has cause the teaching of slavery to remain problematic for White educators across the world. These educators have failed miserably in helping both White and Black students to benefit from a school curriculum designed to engage the overall educational experience. Educators on all levels will need to eliminate the defensive routines that cause discomfort before taking on the task of slavery lessons that benefit the educational process for all children. 

We know that slavery lessons are problematic due to recent rejections by the public. For example, in March 2019, a White teacher at the Chapel School in Bronxville, New York was found to hold a mock slave auction where her fifth-grade White students pretended to bid on their Black peers. In the same month, at Wilmington North Carolina elementary school students played a monopoly-like game called Escaping Slavery. One part on the game required students to use a “Freedom Punch Card” which read “If your group runs into trouble four times, you will be severely published and sent back to the plantation to work as a slave”. In Loudoun County Virginia, an obstacle course was simulated as a course for moving through the Underground Railroad. Finally, in South Carolina, a Black mother objected to her son picking cotton on a school sponsored field trip. 

White educators supported by a curriculum and school administrators will continue to struggle with teaching slavery lessons because they obscure the truth behind slavery. The truth about slavery is upsetting, embarrassing, and threatening for White teachers and administrators. As a result, White teachers develop defensive mechanisms which are unwritten rules to effectively deal with those circumstances that are upsetting, embarrassing, or threatening.

Whites teachers become skillfully incompetent as a result of their defensive mechanism. Defensive mechanisms are defensive behaviors that are transferred into a learned behavior that becomes a skill. This skill is learned from the regular application of their defensive mechanism because they are unaware of how this skill will impact their future. The skilled incompetence transforms into a defensive routine. Defensive routines exist when the skilled incompetence routine behaviors are automatically exhibited at all times.

Helping White teachers with slavery lessons will require helping them eliminate the associated defensive routines. White teachers have developed defensive routines because of slavery’s long legal existence created the American caste system that endures today. Slavery has created a false notion of White superiority and Black inferiority built on an unfair education system, unfair employment system and social institutions that support this notion while appropriating black language, music and fashion. White teachers have had a major contribution to this atrocity for which has caused the defensive routines that we seek to eliminate.

Schools are major contributors to slavery lessons becoming problematic for White teachers too. Schools help White teachers to enter that phase of Fancy Footwork. Fancy footwork happens when individuals try to deny the behavioral inconsistencies they exhibit, or else they place blame on other people, which results in distancing themselves from taking responsibility for their behavioral inconsistencies. Since schools are responsible for providing the curriculum and textbooks, they provide a vehicle for White teachers to place blame on the schools instead of themselves.

The reality is that schools also participate in fancy footwork related to slavery lessons. They ask teachers to select textbooks via a textbook selection committee. Once the textbook is approved, then the responsible central office staff member recommends textbook adoption to the school board. In almost all cases the school board places their stamp of approval on the textbook.

White teachers must begin with teacher slavery lessons from the perspective of truth. For some, slavery is considered the best thing that ever happened in the United States. For others, slavery is the catalyst to many of the problems between Whites and Blacks. Before a teacher attempts to teach a lesson regarding slavery, first put yourself in the perspective of the ethnicity that was injured. Then ask yourself, a few simple questions: Will this slavery lesson help all students? Will this slavery lesson hurt the feelings of any children? If there is an affirmative too any of these questions, then only teach about the facts. Do not follow the same pattern of textbooks distributors by omitting facts. Then allow the students to report their feelings as a culmination of the lesson. Do not interject your feelings or perspective or otherwise the White teacher can expect enormous opposition regarding the slavery lesson.    


All the best,

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

(856) 566-3267


Author of:

  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
  • The Raccelerate Formula App
  • Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
  • The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management

“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”
 ~ Tom Coleman ~
Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools

“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~ Perth Amboy Mayor

“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President

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