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UK College of Education Students Receive Fellowship for Project to Improve Teaching of Slavery

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Three graduate students from the University of Kentucky College of Education are among 11 students across the nation selected for research fellowships by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project. The fellowships are part of a multi-year initiative to improve the teaching of slavery in K-12 schools across the nation.

The fellows from UK, Carly Muetterties, Ryan Lewis and Kenny Stancil, work under the leadership of UK College of Education professor Dr. Kathy Swan, who serves on the advisory board for the Teaching Tolerance project, and is the national fellows coordinator.

photo of Dr. Swan and graduate student
UK graduate student Carly Muetterties discusses the research project with Dr. Kathy Swan.

The fellows – based at five colleges and universities in the U.S. – have been curating historical documents and other teaching materials on American slavery to provide teachers with a readily-available resource of free, trusted and well-researched materials about the topic. The graduate students have spent their spring semester conducting the research.

“Children’s reading books and textbooks have increasingly been criticized for their treatment and portrayal of American slavery,” said Maureen Costello, director of Teaching Tolerance. “When it comes to slavery, we see too many instances of the subject being glossed over, minimized or completely distorted. It’s a problem that leaves teachers without meaningful tools to teach this important period in American history.”

In 2015, a McGraw-Hill Education geography textbook came under fire for describing enslaved Africans as “workers.” Months later, Scholastic Inc. was forced to pull a children’s book depicting slaves as happy and eager to please their owners. Many K-12 educators also are not aware of the dramatic changes in scholarship about slavery published in the last two decades.

The other fellowship awardees are Ran Cronin and Zoe Quinn (Salem State University); Rebecca Kuss and Abdul-Qadir Islam (University of Pennsylvania); Colin McConarty (Boston College); and Lauren Henley, Brandon Wilson and Zoe Sissac (Washington University-St. Louis).

Teaching Tolerance is dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children. It produces and distributes anti-bias education resources at no cost to teachers, including Teaching Tolerance magazine, online curricula and professional development resources, and multimedia teaching kits that introduce students to various civil rights issues.

For more information, see www.splcenter.org