A North Texas County school says a book chapter of the same name on lynching is not appropriate for some students

The Carroll Independent School District in South Lake, Texas, began evaluating the content of the book “Life Is So Good” by George Dawson and Richard Globeman this summer after the seventh grade teacher planned to add the title as required reading for journalism class, according to Lane Ledbetter, district manager and district documents obtained It’s CNN.

Ledbetter said Wednesday that school officials have determined that one chapter of Dawson’s book is inappropriate for the students’ age group and have ruled that the book can only be used with “teacher-led instructions.”

A spokesperson for the school district told CNN that the teacher works at George Dawson Middle School. The school was named after Dawson when it opened in 2002. He won national recognition around 2000 for advocating literacy by learning to read at the age of 98.

In his book, Dawson recounts his life experiences, the interactions he had with people in the rural south as a black man, and how he eventually learned to read after joining a literacy program.

The district spokesperson said school officials were concerned about the first chapter of Dawson’s book, which includes several racial surnames and references in which Dawson witnessed the execution of a friend. CNN confirmed that the chapter was set in 1908 and describes Dawson, a 10-year-old in Marshall, Texas, in a general store when he heard a commotion outside. One of his friends was accused of rape by a group of white men and Dawson witnessed his lynching. In the book, Dawson was adamant about his friend’s innocence.

Dawson wrote: “I cried for me. I cried for Pete. I cried for the little ones and for Mama and Papa. I cried for all the pain that was in this world. Papa had tears of his own and he held me.” In the book about his reaction after the extrajudicial execution.

Ledbetter, the district superintendent, said the principal is working with the teacher to find a way to “ensure that sensitive content is presented in the most age-appropriate manner, while maintaining the integrity of the book’s content, intended by the author’s message, and certainly honoring Mr. Dawson’s legacy.”

In his request that the book be considered a required reading, the teacher said the first chapter was the only graphic part of the book but said “it is important to remember the trauma that African Americans – including George Dawson – experienced during this time,” according to the document that CNN got it.

District review of the book drew criticism from community members, Dawson’s relatives, and the co-author.

Globeman, who co-authored the book, told CNN he was sad to hear there were discussions about whether “life is so good” should be censored. He said witnessing the lynching was a defining and painful moment in Dawson’s life until the day he died.

“The pain and injustice he saw, and the pain and injustice he endured in his life, pushed him to live the best life possible,” Globeman said.

Globeman said he believes “the students of George Dawson Middle School will continue to draw on Dawson’s full story, even the parts that might make us feel very uncomfortable.”

For years, the school has hosted public readings of Life Is So Good in the campus library and provided opportunities for students to learn about Dawson’s life.

George Dawson Middle School in South Lake, Texas, has been named after the late Dawson since it opened in 2002.
Christopher Irvine, Dawson’s grandson, told CNN he was upset to see his family’s legacy tarnish the ongoing debate over how teachers talk about race. He and his family have visited the school for several years for cover-to-cover readings of the diary.

“I don’t think his story can be adequately told once these sections are removed because that’s part of his life,” Irvine told CNN. “I can’t go and get rid of the bad things in your life and only talk about the good things and say that’s all that has happened in your life…that is unfair.”

Anya Kushwaha, co-founder of the Southlake Coalition Against Racism, an advocacy group for current and former students fighting for change in the district, said the book review notes the impact of the “very conservative and under-the-hood school board” currently leading the school district and how far from recognition it is. “Our own history, which is the history of blacks and the history of colored people.”
Carol ISD, which serves the Dallas and Fort Worth suburbs of Southlake, has been the center of many controversies in recent years. Since last year, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has launched at least two investigations into allegations of discrimination.
Last fall, a local school principal told teachers that if they have books on the Holocaust in their classroom libraries, they should also include books that display “opposing” views.

While book review and other controversies may be discouraging for students, Koshuaha says her group continues to encourage students to express their opinions at school board meetings and to contact officials.

“At the end of the day, it’s about the students inside who are experiencing this firsthand,” Koshuaha said.

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