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Target pulls Black history item that misidentified Civil Rights leaders

By Ramishah Maruf, CNN

New York (CNN) — As with many Target trips, Nevada US history teacher Tierra Espy left the store with more items than she intended to buy on Sunday.

She added a magnetic activity book about iconic Civil Rights leaders to her cart, in time for Black History Month, she told CNN in a phone interview. But now, Target is pulling the item off shelves after a viral TikTok in which Espy pointed out inaccuracies such as misidentifying names and pictures of iconic Civil Rights leaders.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune first reported the news.

The activity book had mixed up the names and images of Carter G. Woodson, a pioneer in the study of African-American history; W.E.B. Du Bois, a sociologist, historian, author and activist; and Booker T. Washington, an educator and intellectual who was the first president of what is now Tuskegee University.

In a statement Friday, Target said it “will no longer be selling this product in stores or online. We’ve also ensured the product’s publisher is aware of the errors.”

Misidentifying Black people and other people of color can play into racist tropes by suggesting non-White people all look alike. The trope has often been used to dehumanize non-White people.

And blunders like this have happened before. Last year, decorated Olympian Simone Biles called out the Wall Street Journal after an article it published about her featured a photo of a different Black gymnast.

The Civil Rights leaders book was available in Target’s Dollar Spot section, Espy said, the prominent display at the front of the store where most items are priced between $1 to $5. The magnetic book was displayed next to other educational items for Black History month.

On Monday night, Espy opened the book to put the magnets on the fridge for her children.

“As soon as I saw the mistake I’m like, ‘Oh no, I can’t put this up,’” she told CNN.

“They’re expecting us not to notice the mistakes, and it’s heartbreaking as somebody who knows the mistakes and has seen it,” the history teacher said.

Espy’s TikTok, which was posted on Tuesday, has almost 900,000 views.

“These need to be pulled off the shelf,” she said in the video.

A company called Bendon, which makes activity books, toys and craft kits, published the book. Target, along with Amazon, Dollar General and Walmart, is one of its retail partners according to the Bendon website. CNN has reached out to Bendon for comment.

Espy hasn’t heard from Target or the maker of the book but said the Minneapolis-based company did right by pulling it off shelves quickly.

“I’m a teacher. If you don’t know something, I can’t blame you for what you don’t know,” Espy said. But if “I give you the information to correct it, then it’s your responsibility.”

CNN’s Parija Kavilanz contributed to this report.

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