South Carolina Fifth-graders told to pick cotton, sing slave song on field trip

by Kim Boateng Posted on February 24th, 2019

Greenville, South Carolina: Students at a South Carolina elementary school were told to pick cotton and sing a slave song as part of a class field trip during Black History Month.

Cell phone video shows fifth-graders from Ebenezer Avenue Elementary picking cotton while being instructed to sing, “I like it when you fill the sack. I like it when you don’t talk back. Make money for me.”

“I think it’s making a mockery,” Jessica Blanchard, whose 10-year-old son attended the field trip, told the station. “A mockery of slavery. A mockery of what our people went through.”

The students were on a field trip to the Carroll School, which was built in 1929 for African-Americans and now serves as a teaching center for fifth-graders to learn about the effects of the Great Depression.

Parents reportedly signed permission slips that mentioned cotton picking as part of a history lesson on the Great Depression.

A representative from the Rock Hill School District told reporters the field trip was a “unique learning opportunity”

“As part of the fifth-grade curriculum, students study the Great Depression time period, and this field trip helps students make real-life connections to this era in American history,” Mychal Frost, director of marketing and communications for the Rock Hill Schools said in a statement obtained by the outlet.

The Rock Hill School district issued a second statement on Friday saying that the songs sung were not intended “to sound like, or in any way be a ‘slave song’ as it has been characterized,”.

State Rep. John King, D-Rock Hill, released a statement Thursday saying what happened on the trip was “insensitive and inaccurate.”

“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,” King said. “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.”

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