New Jersey elementary school under fire for slave auction reenactment

New Jersey elementary school under fire for slave auction reenactment
Source: AP
Source: AP

An elementary school in New Jersey is facing backlash from parents after a substitute teacher staged a slave auction in a fifth grade classroom, the Huffington Post reported. 

According to CBS New York, the mock auction took place at Jefferson Elementary School in Maplewood, New Jersey, while the class's regular teacher was out. The principal sent a letter home to parents explaining that a substitute had conceptualized the exercise, which "was not part of the curriculum, not part of the teacher's assignment, not condoned by the classroom teacher, and not authorized by the district." 

The activity was intended to teach the children about the horrible reality of the slave trade, but understandably, the auction upset parents. 

"There was a sale of a black child by white children in the classroom," Tracey Jarmon-Woods told CBS New York. "If you're demoralized — sold on a block in 2017 — it may affect you the rest of your life."

According to NJ.com, the fifth graders organized the proceedings and filmed it. The class' regular teacher viewed the footage upon her return, and contacted parents to let them know she was doing damage control, using the incident "as a teachable moment to elaborate on the gravity of this part of our history."

This was not the same New Jersey school where students were recently instructed to make slave auction posters, but it does represent the school district's second instance of mock slavery activity within a single month. While the school district apologized for the posters students at South Mountain Elementary School made, its communications director did not apologize for Jefferson Elementary's auction.  

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Claire Lampen

Claire is a staff writer at Mic who covers women's issues and reproductive rights. She is based in New York and can be reached at claire@mic.com.

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