Texas Historical Group Removes Slavery Books At Ex-Slave Plantations: Report

Around two dozen titles, including slave narratives, were removed after one white woman’s repeated emails.

The Texas Historical Commission has removed a number of books from the gift shops of two former slave plantations after a white, self-described “advocate for an honest portrayal of history” questioned their relevance, according to Texas Monthly.

The magazine reported this week that the woman, Michelle Haas, began emailing a commission board member after visiting the Varner-Hogg plantation last year. She flagged 23 books for sale in the gift shops. (Haas says she sent a complete list of books for sale, though the Texas Monthly article disputes this.)

Titles reportedly removed included: “Remembering the Days of Sorrow,” a book of slave narratives; “Invisible Man,” the Ralph Ellison novel on the Black experience; “Stamped from the Beginning,” a history of racist ideas by Ibram X. Kendi; and “Roots,” the Alex Haley novel famously adapted for television in the 1970s.

Twenty of the titles had themes about racism, and most were written by Black authors, Texas Monthly reported. Although Haas reportedly said in an email that her actions led to the removal of “those politically charged books being sold to the public at state-run history sites,” she told Texas Monthly that she objected to the removal of some of the titles, such as the book of slave narratives.

“What I wanted was for them to evaluate each of these titles on their merit for inclusion at state-run history sites,” Haas told the outlet.

The Texas Historical Commission is a state agency overseeing the preservation of certain historical sites across the state. As such, they were required to respond to an open records request from the Texas Monthly asking for emails relating to the gift shop situation.

After watching an informational video at the Varner-Hogg plantation, Haas later wrote to complain about the “idiotic activist visitors center video” that discussed “blah blah blah slavery,” according to Texas Monthly. After the article’s publication, Haas reached out to Texas Monthly to clarify that she actually wanted more firsthand slave accounts from the site.

Haas later reportedly emailed David Gravelle, a commission’s board member, to question a list of titles that were available at another nearby historical site, the Levi Jordan plantation.

Haas is the author of a book of her own, titled “200 Years a Fraud,” which takes the text of the “12 Years a Slave” memoir and points out what she considers historical inaccuracies in the primary author’s account of his own life.

Gravelle reportedly took up Haas’ complaints with the board, claiming he feared the Republican-controlled state legislature would be upset if lawmakers found out about the titles on offer.

A spokesperson for the commission pinned the change on a general reduction of inventory.

For more, head to Texas Monthly.

This story has been updated to reflect new statements Haas gave to Texas Monthly after publication.

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