A Black Ohio elementary school student claims he was humiliated when his class held a mock slave auction as part of a history lesson. The school has since apologized.
According to Columbus, Ohio CBS affiliate WBNS, 10-year-old Nikko Burton was given the role of a slave in a mock auction in his class at Chapelfield Elementary School, in Gahanna, Ohio.
“I ended up being a slave,” Burton told the TV station. “At first I didn’t care, but after people were bidding on people it kind of made me a little mad and stuff.”
“The lesson regarding the institution of slavery was 10 to 12 minutes long with mainly discussion followed by a very brief role-play exercise,” the statement on the Web site said. “During the role play students were assigned to roles of ‘slave’ or ‘master’ based on randomly drawn slips of paper out of a jar.”
Burton said the students who were assigned to be slave masters, had to assess those who were playing slaves, to see if they were worth buying.
“The masters got to touch people and do all sorts of stuff,” Burton told WBNS. “They got to look in your mouth and feel your legs…and see if you’re strong and stuff.”
After the incident, Burton told his mother, Aneka Burton, that he was humiliated. She later complained to the school.
“He felt degraded, he was hurt and the kids picked on him later,” Aneka Burton told WBNS. “I feel like that was totally inappropriate; it was racist and it was degrading.”
A statement on the school’s Web site claimed that the lesson wasn’t intended to hurt its students, but rather as a tool to help them understand the point in American history.
“The intent of the lesson was to provide students with multiple tools to learn about slavery in American history,” the statement stated. “It was intended to provide students with empathy, compassion and understanding and was never intended to offend or upset anyone. Regardless of the intent, the effect was that some were offended and hurt by the lesson plan, and for that the school district is deeply sorry.”
The school‘s principal later apologized to Aneka Burton, but the mother told WBNS that her son is still seeking an apology from his teacher.