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‘She Never Broke Character’: Parents Outraged Over ‘Disgusting’ Field Trip to Georgia Plantation Where Storyteller Compared Cost of Black Third Graders to Vehicles In Mock Slavery Auction

Some Georgia parents are outraged after their elementary students went on a school trip to the historic Mable House in the Atlanta suburb of Mableton, Georgia.

School officials say they were not pleased with how the lesson was presented to the class and canceled trips to the plantation indefinitely.

While visiting the historic home and plantation on Tuesday, April 11, the students from W.C. Abney Elementary School were exposed to an interactive lesson about the antebellum South and the social nuances of Georgia during the Civil War — including how much an enslaved person would cost in comparison to items they would be familiar with.

Georgia Parents Outraged Over 'Disturbing' Field Trip to Plantation Where Storyteller Compared the Cost of Black Third Graders to Vehicles In Mock Slavery Auction 
A storyteller at Mableton House, a plantation house in Mableton, Georgia, reportedly leads a slavery auction. (Photo: Twitter/Everything Georgia)

A storyteller working at the exhibition asked students to participate in an interactive lesson on the sale of African-Americans. Many of the students’ families spoke out and called the activity “terrible,” as it had students hold up signs with dollar amounts signifying the value of human life.

Related: ‘It Was Uncalled For’: Outraged Texas Mother Demands High School Teacher be Fired for Allegedly Forcing Lone Black Student In History Class to Play ‘Fugitive Slave’

School officials describe the lesson as the storyteller “asked Abney Elementary third-grade students to hold placards while standing in front of their classmates. The intent was to explain the cost of slaves in comparison to other items.”

The principal of the school took action after an African-American parent contacted the school. According to sources, the administrator insisted that graphic descriptions of American history be omitted in future visits to the Mable House.

Mable House contends no student was asked to pretend to be an enslaved person during this activity and that this is the first time a complaint has been made about this lesson, which they believe was taught by a Black person with care and tenderness.

One father, Larry Johnson, a white man, commented on the experience and questioned why the brutality of enslavement was introduced to this third-grade class.

“There’s no color, especially with kids. That’s terrible for them to go through something like that.” Johnson stated in an interview with Atlanta News First. “Adults shouldn’t even go through that let alone children in third grade. It just does so much to their confidence. It’s just demoralizing to be put under a scope as if your color matters.”

Johnson also said he was shocked that a Black person taught the lesson.

A grandfather named Donnie Smith said the educators on the trip should have been “teaching unity not separation,” and adding that “things like that separate us.”

One mother, Gladese Cleaves, a Black woman, was very upset by the lesson. 

“The kids were greeted by a woman who portrayed herself as a slave, she spoke slave talk and never broke character,” Cleaves said to Fox 5 News.

Her daughter was in the class. Cleaves said her child, along with a few of her classmates, held the bill of sale placards used in the lesson and stood as if on an auction block. According to the mother, the students were then compared to the cost of luxury automobiles.

“The fact that a teacher didn’t stand up for my daughter’s civil rights and compared to a piece of metal is so disturbing,” said Cleaves.

Cleaves is the parent that contacted the principal regarding the trip.

At least one person on social media disagreed and called the outrage “dumb.”

“The controversy over this Mable House trip is so dumb,” @Peachkiller85 tweeted. “Who cares that the presenter brought the cost of being sold as a slave? Isn’t that the point to help children understand the concrete concept of being sold?”

A statement from Paulding County School District, where the school is located, said this trip has been a staple for students for years to “learn about 19th-century farm life, see visual art, and participate in outdoor activities.”

The district claimed this time the lesson was altered, but with an intention to isolate and embarrass the students based on their race, causing a schism between students based on color and historic experiences.

“[The] intent was to explain the cost of slaves in comparison to other items,” officials said. “This lesson had never been part of the Mable House’s curriculum for Paulding County students prior to that day, nor was it described in the field trip materials or mentioned on the Mable House website. Additionally, the storyteller did not mention to the teacher that this activity would be part of the lesson or ask if it would be appropriate to have students participate.”

The officials said that the lesson damaged the relationship between the district and the historic landmark. The district said it will no longer use the Mabel House as a field trip for students at any of their schools and canceled the trips previously scheduled “for the remainder of the school year.”

A statement was also submitted by the Cobb County Government, which is leasing the Mable House property, standing by the storyteller.

“The storyteller is African American and has been working with the non-profit that runs the Mable House for years without any complaints,” the statement read. “She’s given the presentation to thousands of students and parents over the years, and she presents her lessons in a very sensitive manner.”

The Mable House is a 180-year-old plantation plain house that sits on the remaining 16 acres of the original 400-acre farm owned by the Mable family that founded Mableton.

On the land are a family cemetery, the family’s original smokehouse, storage barn, sweet potato house corn crib, and a kitchen house. It also has a famous well that was regarded by Union Army soldiers that camped there during the Civil War as being a “supply of good fresh water” and having “high quality.”

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Mable House was also a hospital during the Civil War and has been restored to its original 1890s condition with period furniture. The restored property does not have running water.

According to Georgia History, the Mable House was built by 11 enslaved Africans and Robert Mable, the Scottish immigrant who owned them.

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