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Palgrave Macmillan

Misrepresentation and Silence in United States History Textbooks

The Politics of Historical Oblivion

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  • Open Access
  • © 2024

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  • Uncovers the misrepresentation and silence taking place throughout US history textbooks
  • Focuses on two historically overlooked groups of people: Native Americans and Mexican Americans
  • Contains both ethnography and textual research
  • This book is open access, which means that you have free and unlimited access

Part of the book series: Palgrave Studies in Educational Media (PSEM)

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About this book

This open access book investigates how representation of Native Americans and Mexican-origin im/migrants takes place in high school history textbooks. Manually analyzing text and images in United States textbooks from the 1950s to 2022, the book documents stories of White victory and domination over Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) groups that disproportionately fill educational curricula. While representation and accurate information of non-White perspectives improves over time, the same limited tropes tend to be recycled from one textbook to the next. Textual analysis is augmented by focus groups and interviews with BIPOC students in California high schools. Together, the data show how misrepresentation and absence of BIPOC perspectives in textbooks impact youth identity. This book argues for an innovative rethinking of US history curricula to consider which stories are told, and which perspectives are represented.


Table of contents (6 chapters)


“Gellman unapologetically illuminates the systematic biases and deliberate omissions that distort the historical narratives presented in US textbooks. It's a refreshingly honest revelation of the harmful consequences of silencing diverse voices and perspectives. Fortunately, Gellman provides educators an alternative proposal to this troubling narrative with practical suggestions on how to foster a more inclusive and critical approach to history education.” (Michael Davies-Hughes, Superintendent of Schools, Humboldt County Office of Education)

“Gellman uncovers layers of bias and omission within US history textbooks that perpetuate cultural erasure and influence how Native American and Mexican American young people perceive themselves in school. Through innovative mixed methods pairing textbook analysis with interviews and focus groups, Gellman adeptly highlights the transformative role that Indigenous and Spanish language classes play in intervening in and reshaping harmful narratives, while also underscoring the urgent need for inclusive curricular reform.” (Kayla Begay, Associate Professor of Native American Studies, California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt, USA)

“This book shows how brutality is masked as glory, and how violence, whiteness, and domination become entangled, normalized, and romanticized through the telling of the nation’s founding and the maintenance of its borders. A window into the assimilatory mechanics of the US education system, this book adds to the literature illustrating how deeply rooted white supremacy and settler colonialism are in US educational approaches, and how little room we give students to judge, critique, and connect history to their everyday lives. Gellman’s call for curricular inspection, reform, and transformative decolonization is important and timely.” (Michelle Bellino, Associate Professor of Education, University of Michigan)

“This book is an excellent analysis of exclusion of Native American and Mexican-origin peoples from US history textbooks. By using textbook analysis and ethnographic methods, the author presents a clear picture of the shared experiences of Native American and Mexican-origin people and illustrates the importance of including those perspectives in US textbooks.” (Stephanie Masta, Associate Professor, Purdue University, USA)

“Mneesha Gellman’s book is timely and globally significant as it advances our knowledge and understanding of minority groups in the US, multicultural education, and cultural diversity both locally and globally. The book offers an original, insightful, and informative contribution to the field of multicultural education and cultural diversity in the US.” (Joseph Zajda, Associate Professor, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne Campus)


Authors and Affiliations

  • Emerson College, Boston, USA

    Mneesha Gellman

About the author

Mneesha Gellman is Associate Professor of Political Science, Emerson College, Boston, USA   

Bibliographic Information

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