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Eurocentric Influences in American History Textbooks

Updated: Apr 19

Educational resources with biased Eurocentric influences no longer make American education a safe space.

Written by: Catherine Knox | Edited by: Laila Musleh


The subject matters of white supremacy and racism are too heavy of appellations to ignore in society today. There is a definition of supremacy that is taken too lightly by the public: the state/condition of being superior to all others in authority, power, and status.

Every time you look at yourself, be you black, brown, red, or yellow - a so called Negro - you represent a person who poses such a serious problem for America because you’re not wanted”.

When speaking those honest words, Malcolm X knew the burden future generations would bear, and continue to bear, would far exceed the physical and emotional toll of the tear gas used in the streets of 1963. Emotional afflictions that would deteriorate the mental health of the shamed youth would be used as a weapon as well.

"They realized all over the world where the dark man was being oppressed, he was being oppressed by the white man”.

Malcolm X understood the power of the white man; When their physical whips were taken away from them by Lincoln, it left them filled with rage. However, they’ve now created new forms of abuse. Brutal threats and actions have resulted in the blood-curdling cries of black women mourning their abused children and dead husbands. Death has marred the face of this nation and left scars of the backs of citizens who walk around today as if they hold no responsibility for the troubles of the past.

When we look at the world around us, what do we see? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. No change. Resistance is created through speeches, protests, and written works that bring tears to our eyes. Yet, we still remain as far from tearing down the walls of racism and white supremacy as we were in the 1800s. The elephant has been in our rooms for far too long. We see it every day. Yet, we are still failing to take action. Donald Yacovone, an American researcher and writer who specializes in African American History, began a study of the antislavery movement’s legacy. “To understand why it has proved so dominant, so irresistibly appealing, even essential, we must survey its development and range.”

Yacovone states in his article `How white supremacy became part of nation’s fabric”, that when we delve deeper into the past, it’s evident that the white supremacist belief of black inferiority has existed for many years prior to the creation of America’s republic. 20th-century textbooks are a main cause in the blatant racism that has occurred and continues to push forward within the minds of our youth. Yacovone reviewed the textbook “Exploring the New World''. The written content failed to mention the antislavery movement, “Who else would do the work?” the authors would ask. A myriad of texts was reviewed by Yacovone that were rejected from publication by the segregated South, and published mainly by Northern publishing houses located on the east coast.

Investigating American history school textbooks, explains how the whitewashed version of American history has been deeply ingrained into the minds of our youth. It is clearly shown that there is this abhorrent commitment to white supremacy on a national level. Our history books have weaved the idea that African Americans ``had done nothing to merit inclusion”. James Baldwin, an African American writer, and critic recalled in 1965, he struggled to find substance as a black man as a result of the dishonest education he underwent. “I was taught in American history books that Africa had no history and that neither had I.” When our schools take America’s troubled past and sugarcoat the blood that the black man has spilled on the very soil we walk on, it should make us sick to our stomachs. Disgust and hate have been stitched into the minds of our youth right under our noses and have been carried on for generations within the halls of our schools.

The real question we must ask ourselves is how must we strip these scandalous falsehoods on the matter of white supremacy and racism from the minds of our youth.

We must also not forget those who have graduated from these school systems and have been raised by a torturous education system that is undeniably biased towards the white man.

These openly biased American textbooks that we have held in our hands at one point often disregard the perspectives of other cultures, while favoring those that authors deem as superior. Eurocentric influences have embedded themselves into 19th and 20th century textbooks that a majority of us have based our historic knowledge on. Noah Webster, an English spelling reformer, political writer, and textbook pioneer wrote the first American dictionary. Webster was also responsible for his 1832 book, “History of the United States”, which surprisingly had no mention of African Americans and the pivotal role they play in this nation. One would think that derogatory language would not be upheld in a textbook. However, when Webster does choose to mention African Americans, that belief is shamefully contradicted. “American” entailed white. Ultimately, any one of a different race is an outsider, an alien. With this in mind, it is clear that white supremacy was a brazen act within schools teaching young children/adults that it was okay and justified to disregard those who are not white.

A lack of cultural representation within schools can have detrimental effects on those who feel alone in a world of racism and unfair biases. When students learn from textbooks that do not merit the inclusion of other races simply because of the mere belief that ‘others’ are not“good enough”, people of color’s mental health will be destroyed, and self esteem will be shattered. Supremacist attitudes have been rooted in America’s educational system for far too long. When the College Board made the decision to add African American studies to their curriculum as an AP course, it brought some sense of representation to students. During the 2022-23 school year, the College Board made the first pilot for the course in 60 schools across the country. This definitely progressed American Education.The course development timeline estimates that all schools may begin offering AP African American studies during the 2024-2025 academic school year. However, with that opportunistic decision comes much backlash.

According to Fabiola Cineas, a reporter for Vox who covers race and policy, many believed the College Board was including an overwhelming amount into their curriculum, while others believed that the inclusion of this course is simply not enough. Regardless of whose side you’re on, the course most definitely provides what many history textbooks didn’t: African American representation. The course goals include historical developments, connections within Black communities, viewing political and social movements, understanding African American authentic representation, etc. When college faculty were asked by the board regarding topics for the course, it was determined that “intersectionality, cultural production/appropriation, and structural racism” were the most essential. Even as some try to redeem our nation’s reputation, there are still those who will disagree with such decisions and opt to continue maintaining the walls of white supremacy and racism.

No one is safe in this society. The audacity of American systems to be blatantly racist is simply outrageous. They silence and ignore those such as Malcolm X, James Baldwin, and Donald Yacovone who speak the truth of this nation’s history of running rapidly with brazen racism. Although there are those who seek to make a difference.

To enact change, we must annul the eurocentric influences that have been stitched into the minds of Americans through our education system. Even today, we must honor the legacies of those who were robbed of historical inclusion. It is imperative that we resist the incorrect education America tries to teach us and understand American history from the racist and oppressive systems and societies we see with our own eyes, that we see in the world for ourselves.