Students at Ebenezer Avenue Elementary in Rock Hill, S.C., were told to pick cotton while on a field trip. Although the school ranks high in diversity, it is in “The Bottom 50 Schools” in the state.
The class field trip took place at Carroll School, which was built in 1929 for African-Americans, in an effort to “celebrate” Black History Month. The class of fifth-graders were directed to sing a “slave song” as they picked cotton in a field.
The song went as follows: “I like it when you pick like that. I like it when you fill your sack. I like it when you don’t talk back. Make money for me.”
A teacher captured the racist and offensive display by cell phone.
State Rep. John King, D-Rock Hill, issued a statement last Thursday regarding the incident.
“What happened on this field trip was insensitive and inaccurate,” King said. “Something has gone terribly wrong when slavery is treated as a ‘game,’ when children leave a field trip with the impression that a mockery can be made of their ancestors’ oppression. When we portray a sugar-coated version of history, one of happily picking cotton and singing songs, then we miss an opportunity to teach the truth.”
And the truth was not told on the field trip. In fact, slavery was never referenced on the trip per 10-year-old Jamari Blanchard. He was one of the students who had the “opportunity” to pick cotton.
“They thought it was funny,” Jamari said of his classmates. “Whoever picked the least amount of cotton had to hold a big sack called ‘Big Mama.’”
His mother, Jessica Blanchard, was rightfully livid after viewing the video which the teacher sent to parents.
“I’m African-American and my ancestors picked cotton,” she said. “Why would I want my son to pick cotton and think it’s fun?”
Rock Hill School District said the activity at the Carroll School was supposed to help educate students on the Great Depression and wasn’t part of a lesson on slavery or Black History Month.
The school district allegedly sent a permission slip home that detailed the cotton picking “soiree.”
Some parents complained that had they known their children would have been subjected to singing slave songs, they wouldn’t have allowed to go.
Apparently, picking cotton is OK because it was with reference to The Great Depression.
Of course, the school district’s chief academic and accountability officer, called to personally apologize to parents and promised to take action against offering offensive field trips in the future.
Because none of the seven school board members, two of whom are Black women, could have possibly thought that having children reenact a triggering and horrific moment in Black history like picking cotton would be offensive.