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School apologizes after teacher wore blackface during African history lesson

A school superintendent’s “poor judgment” allowed a teacher to wear blackface during an African history lesson, offending families in the community.

John Huffman, superintendent of the Victory Christian School system in Sacramento, Calif., explained to Yahoo Lifestyle in an email: “Last Thursday our elementary chapel speaker dressed up as a Central African native woman in order to tell the life story of missionary David Livingston and his work in Africa in the late 1800s. In an effort to bring authenticity to her role, she wore a typical native dress and headdress. She also used makeup to darken her skin tone on her arms, shoulders and face.

“I was wrong to allow the use of makeup no matter how innocent the intentions as it has offended some of my students and parents,” he wrote. “I should have anticipated that this could be offensive, and I apologized to my students and parents asking to be forgiven for hurting them.”

On Jan. 24, the teacher visited the district’s lower school to teach about missionary David Livingston, who visited Africa in the late 19th century, and she darkened her skin for the lesson, according to Sacramento news station Fox 40.

Yahoo Lifestyle contacted the teacher in question, but she did not respond.

“I recognize the woman who wore blackface — she is oblivious,” a 19-year-old former student who wants her name kept private, told Yahoo Lifestyle. “It was very upsetting, especially because the kids in that class are so young.”

The former student told Yahoo Lifestyle that an African-American student spoke to the teacher after class to educate her about blackface, and she apologized the next day. “A mother said she would pull her daughter from the school,” she told Yahoo Lifestyle.

Huffman tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he apologized in an email to families that day and confronted the matter in a school-wide assembly. “I wanted to assure them that I am planning future open discussions about this in our chapels and Bible classes in order to help students and staff understand each other’s sensitivities,” he wrote. “There will be other opportunities scheduled for staff as well as teachers as we all learn from this together.”

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