Author: Adam Dean

Adam Dean, Ph.D., is the History Department chair at the University of Lynchburg.
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The Virginia History and Textbook Commission

In response to the rising civil rights movement and the challenge to white supremacy, the Senate of Virginia in 1950 created the Virginia History and Textbook Commission to create history texts that sought to impose the Lost Cause version of slavery, the American Civil War (1861–1865), and Reconstruction on Virginia students. Virginia Indians found much of their history erased or ignored in the textbooks, which gave the impression that most Native Americans had been killed or pushed out of Virginia. Although critics charged the books were an attempt by segregationists to promote the history that supported their racial ideas, the fourth-grade book entered public schools in the autumn of 1956 and textbooks for seventh grade and high school were introduced the following year. The Virginia National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) opposed the textbooks, and the Virginia Teachers Association (VTA), a Black educators organization, successfully promoted an accurate telling of Black history that led to the adoption of Black history courses throughout the commonwealth beginning in the 1960s. By 1965, educators were widely complaining that the textbooks amounted to propaganda. Nonetheless, in 1966 the State Board of Education extended the use of the textbooks for another six years. A changing political climate, including the surge in Black voting following passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the overthrow of the Byrd political machine in 1970, created new impetus to remove the textbooks from schools. In 1972, the Board of Education voted unanimously to drop the books as official history texts. However, the textbooks remained in use in some schools until the late 1970s.