GREENVILLE, S.C. – 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, according to a local television station.
Cell phone video provided to Fox 46 Charlotte 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.
The TV station reported that parents 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 ABC News 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,” according to ABC News.
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.”
Contributing: N’dea Yancey-Bragg, USA TODAY
Follow Anna Lee on Twitter: @annazlee
Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/02/24/students-pick-cotton-sing-slave-songs-field-trip/2971819002/