KEY POINTS

  • The activity was given to eighth-graders at Purvis Middle School
  • A screenshot of the assignment went viral
  • The school district superintendent explained the intention behind it
  • The school's principal apologized for the assignment

A Mississippi middle school has been under fire due to a controversial letter-writing activity in which students were asked to pretend as slaves working on a plantation.

The assignment, titled "Slave Letter Writing Activity," was given to eighth-graders at Purvis Middle School. It asked students to pen a letter describing their life to their family back in Africa or another American state.

Students were also encouraged to write to them "about the family you live with or work with and how you pass your time when you are not working."

A screenshot of the said activity went viral on social media and sparked public outrage, reported WVLT.

"I don't know how a logical person teaches this," Jeremy Marquell, social media manager for Black Lives Matter Mississippi, said as per the New York Post

"Like someone who went to school to teach children could think this exercise was helpful in any way," Marquell said. "It's not helpful. It's hurtful."

Young Democrats Mississippi President Jarrius Adams called the assignment "extremely tone-deaf and inappropriate." "If I were a parent of a student in the classroom I would be pissed. There are proper ways to educate students about the history of this nation. This was not one of them," Adams said.

But according to Lamar County School District Superintendent Steven Hampton, the assignment was given to the students with an intention to teach them about the "atrocities and negatives of slavery."

Hampton also said that the activity's goal was "to show our students just how horrible slavery was and to gain empathy for what it was like to be a slave" and added that the screenshot was just the last slide of a 12-slide presentation on the topic of slavery.

"We do not discriminate against race. We want to be sensitive to what happened in the past," Hampton said, noting that the school's administrators have already addressed the teacher about the issue.

Frank Bunnell, the principal of the middle school, said he was sorry for the incident taking place under his watch. According to him, the outrage has taken out the true intention of the assignment. "However, the intent does not excuse anything," he clarified.

writing-1149962_640 Representational image of a person writing. Photo: pixabay