Mary Wood - South Carolina Teacher Faces Backlash for Teaching on Racism

Mary Wood – South Carolina Teacher Faces Backlash for Teaching on Racism

South Carolina teacher Mary Wood faces controversy for teaching Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book on racism. The incident sparked a national debate on race education.


Mary Wood, an English teacher in South Carolina, faced reprimand from her school for teaching a book by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This incident has ignited a debate on teaching race in schools, especially in the backdrop of new laws in South Carolina.

The Incident

With 14 years of teaching experience, Mary Wood was reported by two of her Advanced Placement English Language and Composition students for teaching about race. 

She had assigned her all-white class readings from Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me,” a book that delves into the Black experience in America. 

The students felt the book made them ashamed of being White, which they believed violated a South Carolina rule prohibiting students from feeling psychological distress due to their race.

The Backlash

Following the students’ complaints, school administrators ordered Wood to cease teaching the lesson and placed a formal letter of reprimand in her file. 

The incident became public, leading to a split in the community. 

Some called for her firing, while others defended her. 

The issue also drew national attention, with conservative outlets criticizing Wood and left-leaning media supporting her.

The Larger Context

South Carolina is among 18 states that have restricted education about race since 2021. 

Across the country, many educators have faced challenges due to political debates on how to teach race, racism, and history.

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Wood’s Dilemma

Mary Wood
Mary Wood

For Wood, trust is crucial in the classroom. 

She believes in teaching authentically, which means introducing students to diverse voices, even if they are unfamiliar or unsettling. 

However, after the incident, she felt betrayed and worried about the potential for further backlash.


The debate on how to teach race and racism in schools continues to be a contentious issue. 

While educators like Mary Wood believe in exposing students to diverse perspectives, they face challenges navigating the political and social landscape.

Thought-Provoking Questions

How can educators balance teaching authentically and adhering to state regulations?

What role should students and parents play in shaping the curriculum?

How can schools create an environment where diverse perspectives are celebrated rather than suppressed?

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