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Study: Most textbooks don't include key events in U.S. history that involve Latinos


How much Latino history could you find if you flipped through U.S. history textbooks? Researchers at Johns Hopkins University tried that along with the civil rights organization Unidos U.S. Most key events in Latino U.S. history were missing from those books or just got a brief mention. Advanced placement, or AP, U.S. history textbooks did a little better. Our colleague A Martínez spoke with one of the study's lead authors, Viviana Lopez Green of Unidos U.S.

VIVIANA LOPEZ GREEN: Many Americans don't know that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory and that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. And so that's an example.

A MARTÍNEZ, BYLINE: Could it be that the publishers of these history textbooks simply don't have people on staff that would even think to add this kind of history into these books? I mean, after all, as you said, all of these things happened in the United States, so it is U.S. history.

LOPEZ GREEN: Yes. That is definitely a big factor and a big element of this gap, representation of who is drafting, who is writing these books, as we see in the same in newsrooms, in newspapers and in other industries.

MARTÍNEZ: Did any textbooks do at least OK?

LOPEZ GREEN: Yes. We analyzed two of the AP history U.S. history books do cover in a better way some of this content. So we are hoping that this report, this study sparks a movement to allow the regular textbook to include some of this content because, as you know, not every student is offered the AP class.

MARTÍNEZ: So when a kid in school takes a look at the history of the United States in a textbook and does not see them reflected in it, what kind of a message does that send to that kid?

LOPEZ GREEN: Well, the foundation for this study is that there is other studies on education that have proved that it is important for a kid to see themself reflected in the curriculum that they are studying and that there is a direct correlation between that and the engagement that that kid has in a school. And we also know that not only the Latino kid that will see himself or herself represented in the curriculum will benefit, but everybody in the classroom will benefit from everybody being included.

MARTÍNEZ: So, Viviana, what would be a reasonable solution to this? Should there be a textbook about Latinos in U.S. history? Or what exactly do you think would be a good solution for this?

LOPEZ GREEN: We believe that we just need these seminal topics to be included in the regular U.S. history textbooks in high school. We are not asking for a special Latino studies or Latino history class. Given the roots of the Latino community in this country, it is important to include these basic foundational facts about the community in a regular history class.

MARTÍNEZ: Viviana Lopez Green is senior director of the racial equity initiative at Unidos U.S.

Viviana, thanks a lot.

LOPEZ GREEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.