Credit: Roni Dean-Burren via the <i>Dallas Morning News</i>

Texas has just made itself look a little silly. In discussing “immigration” to America, a new geography textbook for use in Texas schools teaches that “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.” 

As the Dallas News observes in this editorial, the state’s textbooks are carefully scrutinized and heatedly debated, with an eye to making southern history as anodyne as possible. I wrote about this last July, quoting a state-by-state study of public school history curricula that said Texas offered “a rigidly thematic and theory-based social studies structure with a politicized distortion of history.”

And so the above slipped through. Maybe it was just a mistake, which is what the publisher, McGraw-Hll, claims, but it has the ring of compromise. I picture some old-fashioned educators arguing that slavery couldn’t be ignored completely. Well, there might have been a slave trade, replied the majority, But let’s not go so far as to say there were slaves. If we call them immigrants and workers we’ll show proper respect for their personhood. 

Besides, we southerners like to say the Civil War was fought over states’ rights. It couldn’t have been fought to end slavery once we make it clear there were no slaves.

So “workers” they became. But now McGraw-Hill is providing stickers to readers who wish to cover the gentle euphemism.