Abolitionist Newspaper Revived as Fight Over CRT in Schools Intensifies

The nation's first abolitionist newspaper is being revived after its inception nearly 200 years ago, and it has pledged to be a place for conversation on a number of racial justice issues, including the fight against teaching critical race theory (CRT) in public schools.

CRT is a concept used to teach that race is a social construct, and that racism isn't the product of individual bias but is also deeply rooted in legal systems and policies. The notion has been dated back to the 1970s in America.

The newspaper, titled The Emancipator, first began in 1833 as part of the abolitionist movement, and the revival is a joint effort between Boston University's Center for Antiracist Research and The Boston Globe's Opinion team.

Co-editors-in-chief Deborah Douglas and Amber Payne told the Associated Press that the main goal of the paper was to "reframe" the conversation around racial injustice and create one unified "anti-racist society."

Discussing the publication's important role in the debate over how racism is taught in schools, Payne said, "Our country is so polarized that partisanship is trumping science and trumping historical records. These ongoing crusades against affirmative action, against critical race theory are not going away. That drumbeat is continuing and so therefore our drumbeat needs to continue."

The fight against teaching racism in schools, including the use of CRT, continues to be at the forefront of education discussion, as an escalating number of incidents across the U.S. in the last year alone has sparked a significant backlash and discourse on the subject.

On the subject of CRT, Ben Court, Director of K-12 Research at EAB, told Newsweek, "The superintendents we support want to create the spaces and conversations that help students and their communities learn, engage in productive debate, and share our many, varied experiences. If the revival of The Emancipator newspaper helps us do that, that's great."

Court added, "At the same time, I believe ballot initiatives that aim to restrict what teachers can and cannot say on this subject are unproductive at best."

The states with current bans against CRT in schools are Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, and 16 other states currently have bans moving through State Legislatures, according to World Population Review.

Dr. Neal Lester, a professor at Arizona State University, told Newsweek that the revival of the newspaper will be a "space of validation and documentation and a place of refuge, and not just a place of regression."

"It is a unifier for people who are out here doing the work. This could be a central place for people who are going the same way," Lester said. "There's no central place for people to address this."

Lester commended the work of The Emancipator to be working toward reframing the ideas of racial justice and things like CRT, without the constraints of word limits or sound bytes. The paper's significance, he said, lies in the fact that it is a "place where community members, academics, nonacademics, can talk about these things."

CRT is not the only thing The Emancipator will fight for. Douglas told the AP, "We are targeting anyone who wants to be a part of the solution to creating an anti-racist society because we think that leads us to our true north, which is democracy."

Newsweek reached out to the Association of American Educators for comment.

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The first abolitionist newspaper, The Emancipator, is being revived since it began 200 years ago as the fight over critical race theory in schools continues to escalate in the U.S. Here, signs are seen on a bench during a rally against "critical race theory" (CRT) being taught in schools at the Loudoun County Government center in Leesburg, Virginia on June 12, 2021. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images