The assignment was given to a freshman class at Liberty High School in Iowa City. The students were asked to write four sentences about what they would do if they were a slave who was freed by President Lincoln.
“Think very, very carefully about what your life would be like as a slave in 1865,” the assignment read. “You can’t read or write and you have never been off the plantation you work on. What would you do when you hear the news you are free? What factors would play into the decision you make?”
The teacher, whose name has not been released, has been placed on administrative leave and the assignment has been removed. Kristin Pedersen, a spokeswoman for the Iowa City Community School District, said the assignment was “inappropriate” and that the district will “not support and will not tolerate this type of instruction.”
Dibny Gamez’s 14-year-old daughter Ayesha did not complete the assignment because it made her feel uneasy. Ayesha is one of only a few Black students in the class.
“She’s, like, ‘Mom, that makes me so uncomfortable.’ She just starts tearing up,” Gamez said. “And I was like, ‘No, listen, you don’t have to be ashamed of who you are.’ I said, ‘You are beautiful for who you are. Don’t let not one soul make you uncomfortable for who you are.’”
The mom believes there are many other ways that teachers can teach their students about slavery without crossing the line. “The way it is in 2020 right now, when it comes to race, you have to be very careful of what you can say and not say,” Gamez said.
Check out a photo of the homework assignment below.