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Mississippi school asks students to ‘pretend to be slaves’ for class assignment, gets roasted for ‘whitewashing’ slavery

As part of a class project, eighth graders at Purvis Middle School were told to “pretend like you are a slave working on a Mississippi plantation” and to imagine their day-to-day lives, their journey to the United States and the type of labor they were forced to perform, among other things. But a photo of the assignment making the rounds on Twitter on Wednesday has stoked outrage among some residents, insisting the letter project made light of the horrors of chattel slavery. 

“It’s just another way that Mississippi is trying to whitewash its history,” Reginald Virgil, president of the Mississippi chapter for Black Lives Matter, told the Daily Beast, which first reported the story. He also criticized the use of the term “work,” suggesting it downplayed the forced labor slaves were made to endure.

Another rep from the local BLM branch, Jeremy Marquell Bridges, was bewildered by the assignment, stating “I don’t know how a logical person teaches this. Like [how] someone who went to school to teach children could think this exercise was helpful in any way. It’s not helpful, it’s hurtful.”

Yet another observer noted that the assignment appears to have been adapted from a “Christian fundamentalist” textbook that asked students to write near-identical “slave letters.” In the original, however, classes were also made to “explain how your family treats your slaves well” in order to rebut “a relative or friend in the North who thinks all slaves are mistreated and beaten.” Despite the apparent similarities, it is unclear if the textbook inspired the controversial project at Purvis Middle School.

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