How Alabama taught its children to be racists

As awful as this ‘history textbook’ is, John Archibald may be overstating the effect of the ‘lessons’ in it.

This was a fourth grade level ‘textbook,’ and if I remember correctly it was the first history course. There were several years of subsequent study of social studies, world history, and civics.

I don’t remember the examples shown in the original article - they may have been deleted by the time I had this book for a textbook, my teacher might have skipped them, or I may just have forgotten.

That said, I am happy to have relocated to a much more tolerant environment, where people aren’t constantly trying to refight or justify the Civil War. The real question in my mind is why anyone willingly remains in Alabama (or Mississippi) if they can possibly leave.


This book exemplifies a more general 20th century white supremacist Southern culture, a milieu that lingers on to this day.

I escaped from the South over 25 years ago. I’ve tried to explain to my sweeties who didn’t grow up in that culture how strong that attitude still is today, but even when we visit my family there, they don’t get to see it themselves - that just isn’t the sort of thing you say in front of those who wouldn’t understand. (I.e., my “Yankee” partners.) I actually have family members that have made it clear how they feel about me leaving: they don’t say anything negative towards my sweeties, they didn’t grow up there in the good old CSA(*) , they don’t know any better. I, however, am clearly a traitor.

(* A few years ago I realized the best way to cope with visiting my family there. Just assume that the CSA actually did manage to secede back in 1865, possibly with some conceding to demands by the Union. It makes it a lot easier to tolerate if you go with the belief that you’re visiting a foreign nation with a similar language.)


The usual way, right?

When was this stricken from the pedagogy? Has it even been removed?

1 Like

Congrats to you and @awfulhorrid on escaping! I imagine it’s like being able to breathe more deeply.

1 Like

We had textbooks like that in Arkansas in the late '80s. In fairness, I also distinctly remember that my third-grade science textbook (which I would have received in '83) regaled us with the thrilling possibility that some day we might be able to land a man on the moon.


That’s what I was thinking: it’s not when the books were first published, it’s how long they stay in the school system. The poorer the school district, the older the textbooks.


So I guess this proves that the North really is better than The South, since they learned to be racist all on their own without having to be taught.


Really, as horrifying as this book is, the regional snobbery here sometimes gets to be a little much.

1 Like

Given that all the southerners present concede the points, is it actually snobbery?

I’ve lived in both worlds, yes there is racism in both, yes it is worse in the south. That it is worse in my experience does not make non-southern US places good, but it does make them better.


The South still openly celebrate their traitors and pretend that declaring war on the U.S. was a gentlemen’s disagreement about various dry economic issues.

Something about a speck versus a mote comes to mind.


I think it’s just in how people state things. Or maybe I’m just overly positive. Not that I didn’t witness a few over the top racist incidents over the years, but my experience living in the south was that there are plenty of wonderful people doing their best to make the world a better place.

And it’s not just racism, stuff like yesterday’s “bible belt” prescription drug map. Still not sure what Xeni was trying to imply.

I don’t see how it’s constructive or helps the people who live there when others keep trashing the region and painting it with such a broad brush. I take issue with “The South does X” because no, only some of the people do that. They happen to usually be the ones in power, but the ordinary people themselves can be the same as anywhere else.

The book was in use “until the '70s.” Also that section on the Klan. Also also the comments on that page, now. Jesus H. Fucking Christ on crutches in a handbasket.


Well sure. Except that the ordinary white ones tend to be more racist.

My bibble says don’t criticize a neighbor for the “mote” in their eye without first considering the “plank” in your own. Which I must say is one of the few things the bibble does get pretty much right. Even though it fails to mention that you can make a hypocritical statement but still be correct.

It is true that rape is really fucked up and wrong, even when a rapist says it while raping, after all.

1 Like

Terrible stuff. Close to the worst. However, we’re not just looking at an Alabama or South phenom. Similar lies and slants ran throughout California’s elementary texts through the '60s especially covering the glorious history of CA’s missions and the civilizing influences of the padres. Even today, folks in the southwest struggle with telling about current and historic oppression. Maybe most remarkable is how rare it is to find the truth written in ways that folks consider “age appropriate” or appropriate under any circumstances at all.


I believe the comments generally range from “non-american muslim Kenyan” to the wonderfully racist and antiquated “Uppity” (yes, you may not believe it, but I actually have seen that particularly loaded word used in reference to the president in all sincerity…)


I watched a beautiful portrayal of a lakeside community only to realize it was Alabama.Their state brand really sucks and always will till they get real about equality. I watched the movie Selma and your heart has to go out to the courage of MLK versus the stupidity of Johnson as our President and the close mindedness in Selma. Alabama can serve as the poster child for backwards thinking. Beyond it still being present in the deep south, we see hidden agenda’s and unchallenged ego’s affecting American business. i grew up in Brooklyn and loved basketball so I played in the dominantly black neighborhoods. I loved and respected black people as we shared a respect for the human spirit in all of us. When I wanted to play with one traveling all black team as a white player, they said no. I did not understand it as we had played together a long time in NYC. They clarified that in Alabama a white kid playing with a black team would get shot. this was 1968. I think racists are criminals and when a community acts that way they all should be punished to some extent.


nice filename : )


I say it jokingly, but that’s often what it feels like when I visit my family there. I left for many reasons, but a lot of them came down to “I don’t belong here.” I know it’s got good things about it - the food, for instance, but I’ve also sworn to never visit my relatives alone again. (That’s when the minimal filters drop, you see.)

I do have friends that live there that don’t have the attitude, but I realized they live mostly in the “civilized pockets” scattered here and there. I keep hoping those areas will grow and spread, but I’m just not willing to live there and help.


This comes up just as I’m reading The Half Has Never Been Told and becoming progressively shocked by it…