Mississippi School Asks Students to ‘Pretend’ to Be Slaves and Write Letters About Their ‘Journey’ to ‘Family Back in Africa’

Illustration for article titled Mississippi School Asks Students to ‘Pretend’ to Be Slaves and Write Letters About Their ‘Journey’ to ‘Family Back in Africa’
Photo: Sergio Foto (Shutterstock)

I just…

I don’t understand these “educators” who insist on taking slavery—the most brutal, cruel, and inhumane thing America has ever done to an entire race of people whose freedom, heritage, families and humanity were stripped from them—and turning it into some Sesame Street-ass game or activity that trivializes the centuries-long practice. Just last week, I reported on a school in Delaware in which kindergartners were being taught yoga positions that mimicked the way enslaved people were positioned on slave ships.


So, I thought to myself: “Welp, at least Black History Month is over now and I’ll get a nice long break from writing up reports on white nonsense like this.” Unfortunately, I was—*in my best Charlie Murphy voice*—WRONG! Because these “educators” are habitual line-steppers, I now have the displeasure of bringing you a story from Mississippi in which middle school students were given the assignment to pretend they were slaves and write letters to their families back in Africa.

Insider reports that the assignment was given to eighth-grade students at Purvis Middle School in Purvis, Miss. Lamar County School District Superintendent Steven Hampton confirmed that the assignment was given Wednesday following a slideshow presentation on the “atrocities and negatives of slavery.”

From Insider:

Students were asked to “pretend like you are a slave working on a Mississippi plantation” and “write a letter to your family back in Africa or in another American state describing your life,” according to the image of the assignment that was posted online.

See, already I can tell you eighth-grade me couldn’t have been in this class. I can see it now:

Teacher: “Zachary, why aren’t you doing your schoolwork?”

Me: “I am. I’m pretending to be a slave and your ass is out here trying to get me lynched for reading and writing.”


Somehow, the assignment got worse.

“You may discuss the journey to America, as well as the day-to-day tasks you perform,” the assignment continued. “You may also want to tell about the family you live with/work for and how you pass your time when you aren’t working.”


This “educator” really thinks slavery was just a really dark episode of Gilligan’s Island. This MF is a huge LeVar Burton fan who decided a Reading Rainbow and Roots mashup was an excellent activity idea.

OK, fine—eighth-grade me would have eventually broken down and done the assignment. Here’s my letter:

Dear family back in Africa,

So, y’all coming to get me, or what? Haha, nah, I’m joking.

Assuming you weren’t thrown on the boat right after me, let me tell you about my journey to America. (And by “journey” I mean the mass kidnapping in which hundreds and thousands of us were chained up and packed like sardines beneath the decks of ships for God knows how long.) I give the cruise a negative 400 stars—would not recommend.

I’m supposed to tell you about what I do to pass the time when I’m not literally slaving away for the family I live with and work for whose bills are always miraculously paid even though I’ve never seen any of them go to work. (Apparently, my “educator” thinks the enslaved were unionized and negotiated for PTO with the Board of Massas who were kind enough to give us a little downtime.)

This shit sucks, but anyway, what y’all been up to?

Sincerely yours,

Zack… holy shit, I gotta go, massa just caught me writing and I might die.

Anyway, the school’s principal Frank Bunnell apologized to enraged parents via an email.


“A person could read just the assignment and draw a very unrealistic view of the true tragedies that occurred. That was not intended,” Bunnell said, the Daily Beast reports. “However, intent does not excuse anything. There is no excuse to downplay a practice that (even after abolished) spurs unjust laws, unfair economic practices, inhumane treatment, and suppression of a people.”

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons



Me: “I am. I’m pretending to be a slave and your ass is out here trying to get me lynched for reading and writing.”

My first thought, exactly.

Dear My Left Behind Family in Nigeria, Senegal, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia (tk) & Sierra Leone, also in the Congo and Angola*:

Do NOT get on the boat.

Love, your lost sister who is currently being raped by the white devil himself.

What kind of grade would that get, I wonder?

*(gotta cover that 23andMe spread)