The publisher ultimately apologized and admitted its language in the textbook “did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves.”
Dr. Roni Dean-Burren, a Texas mother and education activist who made national headlines nearly a decade ago after calling out the publisher of her teenage son’s history textbook for whitewashing Black history by incorrectly referring to slaves as migrant “workers,” died on Friday. She was 46.
No cause of death was immediately reported.
Profoundly sad to learn about the passing of Dr. Roni Leigh Dean Burren, the fifth Black PhD student who was in grad school the same time as me who has died. You may remember when she went viral in 2015 for pointing out how Texas school books referred to “workers from Africa.” pic.twitter.com/FAkl87RW31
— Steven W. Thrasher, PhD, CPT (@thrasherxy) November 26, 2023
Tributes to Dean-Burren have been steadily pouring in since news of her death began circulating on social media over the Thanksgiving weekend as the education community mourns a devastating champion of not just learning but Black youth learning.
After working as a high school English teacher in suburban Houston for a little more than a decade, Dean-Burren left Pearland High School to successfully pursue a doctorate in education, during which she ventured into education activism, a field in which she eventually became an icon.
Dr. Roni Dean-Burren will be greatly missed. Her passion & advocacy for literacy positively impacted our city, state, & nation. Recently serving as the @TeamHISD Director of GT within @HisdAcademics, she worked towards equitable processes that ensured opportunity & access. https://t.co/OPxvenoqkJ
— Secondary ELA (@HISD_ELA) November 26, 2023
Dean-Burren’s death comes amid a national debate over how – and if – to teach students Black history.
That fact is particularly relevant since Dean-Burren is widely remembered in part for how in 2015 she called out publishing giant McGraw-Hill Education by posting a video of her son’s 900-page textbook in which enslaved Africans were referred to as migrant workers.
“Many of you asked about my son’s textbook. Here it is,” Dean-Burren captioned her Facebook post. “Erasure is real y’all!!! Tea