The year 2019 was particularly important to U.S. history because it marked the 400th anniversary of the first slave ship landing in the United States, marking the beginning of slavery. Upon reading an article from The New York Times and the 1619 Project, we realized that the use of the words slave, slave owner and plantations are dehumanizing to the descendants of enslaved people and continue the institutional racism that was propagated back then to justify slavery.
As socially conscious students of Francine Delany New School for Children, we believe it is the just thing to do to change the language that is commonly used among our community. Unjust language directs attention away from the suffering that happened at these forced labor camps, and changing it acknowledges the fact that people were kidnapped and brought here to unwillingly serve by all means of their enslavers. We feel that calling people slaves labels them more as property than a person. We seek to humanize the people who were enslaved and were essential in building this nation.
Since 2019 marked the 400th year of remembrance of the first slave-holding ship that arrived in the United States of America, we feel as though it is our duty to remedy this inaccurate understanding of history by changing our language today. The enslaved endured work and anguish that should never be forgotten. Changing the language we use now is a step in the right direction toward acknowledging and remembering the past more accurately.
Editor’s note: This letter is one of three we received on this topic from students at a local K-8 school.