Consequences of Learning About Historical Racism Among European American and African American Children


  • This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (0213660). The empirical data of Study 1 were collected by the first author under the direction of the second author as part of the requirements for the Master of Arts degree in psychology. The authors thank Catharine Echols and Judith Langlois for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. They also thank the directors, staff, and students of St. Cloud State University’s Summer Math and Reading Camp, North Park YMCA, and Extend-a-Care for their participation in this research.

concerning this article should be addressed to Julie M. Hughes, Department of Psychology, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station A8000, Austin, TX 78712. Electronic mail may be sent to


Knowledge about racism is a critical component of educational curricula and contemporary race relations. To examine children’s responses to learning about racism, European American (Study 1; N= 48) and African American (Study 2; N= 69) elementary-aged children (ages 6–11) received history lessons that included information about racism experienced by African Americans (racism condition), or otherwise identical lessons that omitted this information (control condition). Children’s racial attitudes and cognitive and affective responses to the lessons were assessed. Among European American children, racism condition participants showed less biased attitudes toward African Americans than control condition participants. Among African American children, attitudes did not vary by condition. Children in the two conditions showed several different cognitive and affective responses to the lessons.