A Tennessee instructor’s Black History Month lesson on a fake historical document backfired when school administrators discovered that she was teaching “alternative facts” instead of verifiable ones like Christopher Columbus discovering America, states’ rights causing the Civil War, or “liberty and justice for all.”
While being interviewed for a book about conspiracy theories, I recently discovered that a lot of white people have never heard of the Willie Lynch Letter. So, for the uninitiated, here is a summary of the now-discredited hoax:
On Dec. 25, 1712, a fictional man named William Lynch made a fictional speech instructing slaveowners on how to “make” a slave. The purported “foolproof method for controlling...black slaves” included a guarantee that the process “will control the slaves for at least 300 years.” This is allegedly where the term “lynch” comes from.
Now attributed to Dr. Kwabena Ashanti, the document first appeared in 1993 and has since been repeatedly discredited, most famously by Jelani Cobb during his time as a history professor at Spelman. Still, the speech is often cited by Baptist preachers, spoken word artists who have “knowledge of self” and anyone who claims they can see with their “third eye.” Aside from its inclusion in the lesson plan for Dr. Umar’s School of Hotep Arts and Sciences, almost no serious student or teacher of history takes it seriously.
NBC reports that an unnamed student-teacher at Waverly Belmont Elementary School in Nashville, Tenn., was dismissed after she assigned the letter as part of the fourth grade Black History Month curriculum. Following the reading assignment, the students had to complete the phrase: “To keep their slaves subservient, plantation owners should...”
The student-teacher was removed after the assignment was taught in two classes, school district spokesman Sean Braisted said. Braisted said she will not be returning to the school.
In a statement, Braisted said the material was “not age appropriate or within the scope of sequence for the 4th grade class.”
“(Metro Nashville Public Schools) regrets if any students or parents were caused pain as a result of this incident. District leaders have been working with school administrators and parents to address concerns for the students involved.”
The supervising teacher was also placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the school district, Braisted said.
Wait…The teacher was removed because the lesson was too “graphic,” not because it was fake? So the fourth-graders haven’t learned about slavery yet, or have they only learned about the good parts of slavery? You know...the beautiful songs, outdoor activities, and the low antebellum unemployment rate?
The school, which is 47 percent white and 43 percent Black, also placed the full-time teacher, who was present during the lesson, on administrative leave, according to Nashville Metro Schools spokesperson Sean Braisted.
If I was a parent, I’d speak to the governor about this. Although slavery is part of American history, there’s no reason that anyone should celebrate this heinous part of America’s past.
Wait… Doesn’t Tennessee’s state capitol have a bust of Ku Klux Klan leader Nathaniel Bedford Forrest? I almost forgot that each year, Tennessee’s governor is required by law to sign a bill proclaiming three separate days of commemoration to honor the Confederacy, including Nathaniel Bedford Forrest Day, Robert E. Lee Day and Confederate Decoration Day.
The Root could not confirm that the student-teacher has applied to the Boyce Watkins Institute of Ankhology.