McGraw-Hill's Textbook Error

David Prior's picture

Dear H-Slavery Subscribers,

As you may have already seen, there is an interesting discussion taking place at H-Afro-Am about McGraw-Hill's recent apology for its treatment of slavery in one of its textbooks.  I would like to invite you all to share your thoughts about the matter by commenting on this post. The discussion of this topic is spreading to multiple H-Net groups, and H-Net will be collecting conversations across networks about it... so commenting here will contribute to a much larger discussion.

We'd love to hear your thoughts.

Kind Regards,

David Prior
Editor, H-Slavery

An important component of my recently published book concerning war captives in New Zealand Māori society (referred to in English as ‘slaves’) is a discussion of semiotics and word use in that context. One quote from eighteenth-century England seems particularly relevant to this issue:

“The politically astute have always known the value of manipulating language. So, as far back as April 1789, when abolitionists were pitted against the pro-slavery West Indies lobby, a mischievous correspondent using the nom de plume ‘No Planter’ wrote to the English Gentleman’s Magazine cynically suggesting that because ‘[t]he vulgar are influenced by names and titles’:"

"Instead of SLAVES, let the Negroes be called ASSISTANT-PLANTERS; and we shall not then hear such violent outcries against the slave trade by pious divines, tender-hearted poetesses, and short-sighted politicians.”
[From The Gentleman’s Magazine, vol. 59, January–June, April 1789, cited in Hazel Petrie, Outcasts of the Gods: The Struggle Over Slavery in Māori New Zealand, Auckland University Press, p.325.)