Teaching White Supremacy: America’s Democratic Ordeal and the Forging of Our National Identity

Pantheon. Sept. 2022. 464p. ISBN 9780593316634. $32.50. HIST
White supremacy is deeply rooted in the U.S. educational system, demonstrates NAACP Image Award–winning historian Yacovone (The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross) in his essential book. Studying schoolbooks produced by an industry dominated by New York, Boston, and Chicago publishing houses, he masterfully details how U.S. K–12 and college texts since the 1830s have inculcated whiteness as a national inheritance passed from generation to generation. Regardless of region, the nation’s schoolrooms using works published by the long-dominant American Book Company, and its successors have taught the affirmation of white power, he explains. American schoolbooks’ depictions of slavery, race, abolitionism, the Civil War, and Reconstruction have told the tale of the value of white dominance and nonwhite subjugation. But such racist fantasies have long been challenged, especially with growing force since the 1890s, Yacovone emphasizes. He names names and provides pointed illustrations to mark the past and present contested terrain of U.S. historical memory.
VERDICT Amid the current culture war with its battles over public school boards, curricula, and libraries, this accessible, thoroughly documented, and well-reasoned work is essential reading for all interested in truly understanding America’s past and the systemic distortions to repress and restrict the historical narrative with an insidious ideology.
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