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U.S. Students Aren’t Being Taught About This Pivotal Era of Black History, Study Shows



Reconstruction, Black history lessons,

A new report has found that U.S. students aren’t adequately taught about the Reconstruction Era, the period from 1865 to 1877 in which white supremacists undermined efforts to reintegrate former Black slaves into the post-Civil War United States. As a result, many students remain ignorant about the period and its connection to the present-day fight for racial justice.

The report, released by the Zinn Education Project, found that numerous U.S. school teachers quickly summarize, skip, or minimize lessons from the era over fears that it might upset parents angry over “indoctrination” or “critical race theory.”

Numerous schools teach Reconstruction from a top-down approach as a story about how congressional and presidential actions transformed the nation to a post-slavery period. This approach leaves out how these actions actually played out locally and in the lives of everyday Black people.

For example, while the nation established the Freedman’s Bureau to help assist former slaves after emancipation, history classes seldom mention how understaffed, ineffective, and terrorized bureau offices often were. Current history lessons also fail to explain the specific white supremacist individuals, organizations, and systems that actively worked to defeat Reconstruction.

Reconstruction teaching also focuses broadly and passively on the period’s “successes and failures” rather than directly showing how white supremacist groups helped dismantle and pass Jim Crow laws to destroy Black voting, officeholding, and economic independence.

This approach also ignores how Black and anti-racist progressives fought against white supremacy. The “successes and failure” framing additionally equates white supremacy as being equal to racial justice advocacy, when a more accurate portrayal would reflect on Reconstruction’s revolutionary advocates and the endurance of white supremacy.

Current school lessons often teach Reconstruction as a purely southern event that happened in former slave-owning states, neglecting the fact that the era was a national effort that also transformed northern states. Many states don’t even require any teaching of Reconstruction at all in order for students to pass standardized history exams.

To understand the impact this has on the current day, consider what ACLU communications strategist Rotimi Adeoye recently wrote in The Daily Beast.

“Many Americans have long believed in the dangerous theory that when the federal government acts to help minorities, it’s all just part of a covert plan for Black racial supremacy,” Adeoye wrote. “This racist and violent ideology is still being proliferated by Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson, and was present in the Buffalo shooter’s alleged manifesto.”

“And if you look back at the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6—where an insurrectionist waved a confederate battle flag in the U.S. Capitol for the first time in American history—Eric Foner, one of America’s leading history experts observed that it reminded him of ‘the overthrow of Reconstruction, which was often accompanied, or accomplished, I should say, by violent assaults on elected officials,'” Adeoye added.

School teachers need to be given more support and instruction on how to cover this period and the many aims that Black people fought for autonomously during Reconstruction, the study’s authors write. This latter group includes Black people who got busy “founding Black churches and mutual aid societies, finding loved ones separated in slavery, and formalizing partnerships were all actions rooted in care, justice, and opportunity.”

By teaching a more nuanced and fuller version of Black life during this period, it will also lay the groundwork for the Harlem Renaissance, the blossoming of Black art and culture around the U.S., and the ongoing fight for racial justice that continued through the early 20th century into the Civil Rights Era of the 1950s and ’60s and through the modern day, the study’s authors say.

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Face ID Tech Causes Police to Jail Innocent Black Men, But the U.S. Has No Laws Restricting It



Louisiana police used facial recognition technology to incorrectly identify a suspected thief, resulting in a Black man’s wrongful arrest and imprisonment for a week. It’s not the first time it has happened, and the U.S. has no laws to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

The legal enforcement agencies involved in the recent arrest have refused to answer media inquiries, raising concerns about the hidden governmental use of such technology, its racial biases, and other failings.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO) secured a warrant for 28-year-old Randal Reid after it used face ID tech to wrongly identify him as one of three suspects wanted for the theft of over $10,000 in stolen Chanel and Louis Vuitton purses during the group’s three-day crime spree in June 2022.

Reid’s attorney Tommy Calogero said that the actual suspect, captured on security camera footage, was 40-pound heavier than Reid and lacked Reid’s facial mole. Nevertheless, police in Georgia apprehended him on JPSO’s warrant on November 25 while he was driving with his mother around the Thanksgiving holiday.

“They told me I had a warrant out of Jefferson Parish. I said, ‘What is Jefferson Parish?,’” Reid told “I have never been to Louisiana a day in my life. Then they told me it was for theft. So not only have I not been to Louisiana, I also don’t steal.”

Reid remained in the DeKalb County jail until December 1, 2022, when JPSO detectives “tacitly” admitted the error and rescinded the July warrant.

“[I was] not eating, not sleeping,” Reid said of his time in jail. “I’m thinking about these charges. Not doing anything because I don’t know what’s really going on the whole time.”

Despite the mistake, the JPSO has been stonewalling journalists who want to look into their error.

“Sheriff Joe Lopinto’s office did not respond to several requests for information on Reid’s arrest and release, the agency’s use of facial recognition or any safeguards around it. That office also denied a formal request for the July 18 arrest warrant for Reid and copies of policies or purchases related to facial recognition, citing an ongoing investigation,” reported, adding that the warrant for Reid’s arrest doesn’t mention how he was identified.

Louisiana lacks a statewide law restricting the use of facial recognition technology in policing. A 2021 bill to regulate the technology died in the legislature after being opposed by members of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association and the Louisiana District Attorneys’ Association.

Requests for facial recognition analyses are directed through the state’s intelligence hub, the Louisiana State Analytic and Fusion Exchange in Baton Rouge. The hub reportedly uses two facial recognition providers: Clearview AI and Morphotrak.

Clearview AI uses “tens of billions of images … sourced from public-only web sources, including news media, mugshot websites, public social media, and many other open sources,” its website states.

Experts from the ACLU of Louisana and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) told the aforementioned publication that research shows a tendency for facial recognition technology to more frequently misidentify people of color, Common Dreams reported.

It’s unclear whether any facial matches are peer-reviewed by other facial recognition investigators. It’s also unclear how many police offices use the technology, though some say they only use it to generate “leads” in cases where suspects haven’t yet been identified.

“Cops are using facial recognition without disclosing the fact that they’re using it,” the digital rights organization Fight for the Future wrote about the arrest on Twitter. “Police can scan your face using your driver’s license photo, pics on social media, and more,” the group added. “You can be arrested, your life can be upended because of a machine’s mistake.”

Fight for the Future and allied groups have launched a “Ban Facial Recognition” campaign to track the technology’s use and state restrictions on it.

“Despite some progress in restricting or banning law enforcement’s use of such tools at the local and state levels, the United States still lacks federal law on the topic,” Common Dreams reported.

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North Carolina Supreme Court Knocks Down New Racist Voting Laws



North Carolina’s Democrat-leaning Supreme Court has knocked down a voter ID law and a gerrymandered redistricting map both passed by Republican legislators, saying that they “target African-American voters who were unlikely to vote for Republican candidates.”

The two rulings, issued Friday, were decided in a 4-3 vote which fell along party lines. In January, the court will switch to a Republican majority as newly elected judges take their seats.

The state’s voter ID law required voters to submit one of several types of photo identification before being allowed to vote. Voters in the state approved of the law in a 2018 ballot measure, and Republican legislators passed the law that same year, overriding the veto of Gov. Roy Cooper (D).

“Competent evidence [shows] that the statute was motivated by a racially discriminatory purpose,” Justice Anita Earls wrote in the ruling, The Washington Post reported.

The court’s decision upheld a lower and an appeal courts’ previous rulings which said that the voter ID law “offers a political payoff” favoring Republicans and their traditionally white voters over predominantly Democratic Black voters.

“Although laws that limit African American political participation have frequently been race neutral on their face, they have ‘nevertheless had profoundly discriminatory effects,’” Earls wrote. “Thus, equal access to the ballot box remains a critical issue in North Carolina.”

Indeed, a 2017 study published in The Journal of Politics found that “strict identification laws have a differentially negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections.”

The court also ruled that Republicans intentionally redrew the state’s political districts to stop Democratic voters from electing Democratic lawmakers.

Justice Robin Hudson wrote, “[When a redistricting plan] systematically makes it harder for individuals of one political party to elect a governing majority than individuals of another party of equal size based upon that partisanship, it deprives a voter of his or her fundamental right to equal voting power.”

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College Prep School Apologizes for Serving Fried Chicken to ‘Celebrate’ Black History Month – Blames Black Employee



A private Catholic college-preparatory high school for boys is apologizing after announcing it would be serving fried chicken to “celebrate” Black History Month. In its apology, it blamed an African American food service employee for the meal choice.

“In honor of Black History Month, one way we will celebrate is by highlighting a traditional meal each week that is a staple in Southern Black history. Today’s lunch is fried chicken,” Xaverian Brothers High School in Westwood, Massachusetts told students on Tuesday, MassLive reports.

Students called out school officials, asking them to issue an apology.

Senior class student body vice president Michael Earls urged the administration to “first acknowledge that their ignorance perpetuated a racist stereotype and issue a formal apology,” WCVB reports.

“Honestly, I think it’s just a big stereotype. It could be seen as a little racist,” Xaverian senior Liam Baker said. “It’s the first day of Black History Month. They couldn’t have come up with a better thing than fried chicken for African cuisine? It doesn’t really make much sense.”

“It’s over-hyped. We eat chicken every single day for school,” Xaverian senior Oliver Waddleton added. “We’re learning more about Black history. It’s something that every single school should do.”

WCVB adds that “Xaverian school officials said the effort was an attempt to educate students about Black history and culture, and that the meal was chosen by an African American food service employee.”

“Regrettably, our message was poorly communicated resulting in some perceiving it as the propagation of a negative stereotype,” the school said in a statement. “We are saddened by this outcome. Going forward, we will strive to ensure that all members of our community understand the significance of our efforts to celebrate Black History Month.”


Image by thy khuê via Flickr and a CC license

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