Child Humiliated By Mock Slave Auction At Elementary School

Sometimes there are times when I just wonder what people were thinking.  A student at Chapfield Elementary School in Ohio was humiliated when his teacher decided to divide the class into “slaves” and “masters” in a mock slave auction.  There were two African-American students in the class; one was a “master” and the other, 10-year-old Nikko Burton, was a “slave.”

Nikko’s mother, Aneka Burton, says that he “felt degraded” by the experience, and understandably so.  “At first, I didn’t care,” he said. “But after people were bidding on people, it kind of made me a little mad and stuff.”  According to an article by Paul Aker in the Columbus Dispatch, he felt even more frustrated and angry when the students playing “masters” were instructed to feel the “slaves’” muscles.  The exercise quickly morphed from misguided to horrible when, Ms. Burton explained, “They looked in their mouth to see who had stronger teeth. And whoever was the strongest that’s who they sold first.”

When Nikko complained about being “sold,” he was told to return to his desk.

According to a spokesperson for the school district, the activity was intended to teach students about cultural diversity and U.S. history, and administrators apologized to Nikko and his mother.  The teacher, however, has yet to apologize, and Ms. Burton is absolutely right when she says that this raises troubling questions about the teacher’s ability to understand the history lesson that he or she was imparting to the children.

“They should research – they should be educated about black history,” she said. “That was inappropriate.”

It’s understandably difficult to make 5th-graders understand just what slavery meant, and elementary school teachers often use interactive activities to make history “come alive.”  But reenacting slave auctions, one of the most odious moments in our country’s history using schoolchildren has got to be one of the most disturbing instances of classroom creativity yet.  This teacher needs to apologize, pronto, and all schools need to make sure that such incidents aren’t repeated.


Photo from Flickr.


Kristen H.
Kristen H6 years ago

What. The. Hell. was she thinking. STUPID stupid stupid.

MAGDALENA V.6 years ago

The teacher should be reprimanded... instead of fired... she needs her job, but she needs to get intense sensitivity... post haste!

Deirdre B.
Deirdre Boyne6 years ago

We must educate in manners that do not humiliate or embarrass children. An apology is needed.

Kat Head
Katherine H6 years ago

This should have been taught a different way. Unacceptable to humiliate children in order to teach them.

Mary Beth M.
MaryBeth M6 years ago

I have mixed feelings about this. Because the kids were young, I am concerned. However, were all the kids upset? Or was only the one black kid upset? Did they reverse roles so every kid had the opportunity to play the role of 'slave'. As a parent, with an interest in the Civil War, we have tried to present the horrors of slavery to our 4 children, including vacations along the Civil War Trails in the South. Some of this includes slave cabins, etc. We discuss the ramifications of slavery and try to get them to think about what that means. If it made this child feel uncomfortable, then the exercise worked. The big question is, did all the other kids feel uncomfortable too?

marc page
Marc P6 years ago

Here we go again.... "The student felt uncomfortable." Good! Then the lesson was effective. Let's hope the other students felt uncomfortable also.

jane richmond
jane richmond7 years ago

This experiment should have been thought out and talked out more before being attempted.
The teacher and students should have and would have realized the emotional impact this would have if they had spent some time thinking and talking.

Hilary E.
Hilary E7 years ago

Another case of over reaction, exactly! She even made it fair and one of the black kids was on one side and the other one was on the other. Did any of the white kids complain? Probably not. Get over it for crying out loud! Kids listen better when they're interacting, if they really want them to learn about it then this was a good way. Get your heads out of your butts! Sorry...oh no wait, i'm not. :-P

Bernadette P.
berny p7 years ago

Jay Eure

To you Jay....that you like it or not...this is what democracy is all about!

Jay Eure
Jay Eure7 years ago

People need to get over it, slavery ended years ago. Holding a mock slave auction is a very effective way of reminding those kids of there place in history if we don't remind those people of the past they may forget there place in our society. You gotta love the British, spot on.

So did you guys hear about the latest one a Va. teacher holds mock slave auction, just reported on today.

If our fine teachers keep this up we will get our country back. Mock lynching's and a Mock Holocaust should be next.

@ Karilyn K., Carmel Harrison, bernadette P., Eileen W. and all my closeted racist. Racism use to be a badge of honor in this country and Britain Don't be afraid. Tell the world how you really feel.