Salem State History Professor Plays Central Role in Groundbreaking Report on the Teaching of American Slavery in Schools | Salem State University Skip to main content

Salem State History Professor Plays Central Role in Groundbreaking Report on the Teaching of American Slavery in Schools

A report released this month by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that education on American slavery is sorely lacking.

Salem State University Associate Professor of history, Bethany Jay, PhD, played a central role in a Southern Poverty Law Center Report released on February 1 detailing the insufficiencies in the teaching of the history of American slavery. Through her work and the work of Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the nation’s educators will be provided with the tools needed to teach the topic correctly.

Professor Jay, along with Boston College Associate Professor of history, Cynthia Lynn Lyerly, PhD, co-edited the book, Understanding and Teaching American Slavery, which became the framework for the report. Professors Jay and Lyerly worked with Teaching Tolerance, serving on the advisory board, to develop the ten Key Concepts that will guide the larger national teaching framework.

According to Teaching Tolerance, the report, Teaching Hard History, “traces racial tensions and even debates about what, exactly, racism is in America to the failure of schools to teach the full impact that slavery has had on all Americans. The report examines the lack of coverage that U.S. classrooms provide about American slavery through a survey of high school seniors and U.S. social studies teachers.”

"Our failure, as a nation, to grapple with the reality and legacy of slavery is evident both in the test data from Teaching Hard History and in the near daily acts of racial intolerance taking place in our communities,” Professor Jay said.

Professor Jay, along with fellow Salem State University history Professor Stephen Oliver, were featured on episodes of the Teaching Hard History Podcast.  

“We need to acknowledge the massive impact that slavery had on our past - all of our pasts - before we can create a more just present. The best place to begin this work is in our classrooms. I am honored to have contributed to Teaching Hard History. This essential study and suite of materials will continue and expand the job begun by Understanding and Teaching American Slavery," Professor Jay continued.

According to, “Teaching Tolerance provides free resources to educators—teachers, administrators, counselors and other practitioners—who work with children from kindergarten through high school. Educators use our materials to supplement the curriculum, to inform their practices, and to create civil and inclusive school communities where children are respected, valued and welcome participants.”

Read the Southern Poverty Law Center’s announcement of this report online

Kimberly Burnett
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