History professor and high school textbook author pushing to capitalize the "b" in "Black," and why that matters

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/07/23/history-textbook-author-pushin.html


I think this is a veiled excuse for a textbook author and publishing company to push for a complete reprinting of a lot of books that high schools will be forced to buy, and few will object because of the current political climate. There, I said it.


Yep, I’m sure that’s the only possible reason.


So do you think the outcome is not worth the investment?


They didn’t reprint all those Huckleberry Finn books so I kinda fucking doubt it, somehow.


You’re confusing overpriced college textbooks with HS textbooks.

And given that not all professors are making high 6 figures (most, in fact, are NOT making that, even some tenured folks), publishing a text isn’t an illegitimate means of both making some extra money AND helping further the education of young people.

We are where we are right now because people have been consistently attacking the humanities as not important or a mere scam to make money (which i fucking assure you is NOT the case). Responding to the current moment is the LEAST people can do right now. These sorts of steps should have been done AGES ago, in fact. Helping students understand history properly matters, and that includes helping them to address people who have been oppressed and continue to be oppressed with basic respect and dignity.


It sounds to me like the books are in the process of being revised anyway, and this is one among many of the changes that are being proposed to the committee that makes the decisions.

From the linked article at CNN:

Broussard, a longtime history textbook writer for McGraw Hill […] is planning to capitalize the b in Black in a lengthy revision to a history textbook used in American middle and high schools.


The ultimate decision on whether a capitalized Black will be used in Broussard’s revision will be made by McGraw Hill’s internal staff editors, authors and academic advisers, which is a diverse group of people, the company told CNN over email.

Although it isn’t explicitly stated in the article (as far as I can see), it sounds to me like the schools would be spending money for new books soon anyway. And this is an opportune time to make a change that could have beneficial consequences for years to come.


I mean, it makes sense. I can easily see how its use is a proper noun.


I think the investment in these books is a solid, far larger monetary figure (which is pointedly absent) than people realize, while the outcome is just, good, and vague as hell.

Most text books get updated every few years. That doesn’t mean that every school will order the new edition immediately: many school budgets are indeed limited and have trouble affording even essentials. New editions change for various reasons – we learn new things, new ways of teaching, and new ways of understanding them, we prioritize different things, and need to conform to new curriculum standards. The question isn’t “to update or not”, it is “what will the next edition look like”. So the cost is largely irrelevant to this particular issue.


A failure to buy the new edition would be a failure to be actively anti racist. People are noticing those who don’t speak up.



Silence is not an option. This is actually kind of worse. I can’t imagine “Our textbooks are racist, but we’ll get around to it later” will go over well.

I have as much beef with the academic publishing industry as anyone, but an author voicing the opinion that future revisions should capitalize the b in Black (which while they’re are it should be used as an adjective to Black people, Black Americans and so forth instead of Black as a proper noun) isn’t a cash grab. Revisions will occur. Opining about what they should include isn’t tantamount to a push for earlier adoption. The problems with the cost of textbooks and the educational gap in the US isn’t a problem of their authors having political opinions. Blaming an author who does for the industry’s profiteering seems rather misplaced.


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