African-American Baseline Essays

The African-American Baseline Essays are a series of educational materials commissioned in 1987 by the Portland public school district in Portland, Oregon and compiled by Asa Grant Hilliard III, intended to "provide information about the history, culture, and contributions of Africans and African-Americans in the disciplines of Art, Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, and Music," to "be used by teachers and other District staff as a reference and resource just as adopted textbooks and other resources are used" as part of "a huge multicultural curriculum-development effort."[1]


Despite criticism of their inaccuracies and "Egypt-centric" outlook, the Baseline Essays were widely adopted in the early 90s by large school districts throughout the United States.[2]

Since the debut of the African-American Baseline Essays, three other series have been released as part of the "PPS Geocultural Baseline Essay Series," focused around "American Indians," "Hispanic-Americans," and "Asian-Americans."[3]


Their inclusion of the essay "African and African-American Contributions to Science and Technology" by Hunter Havelin Adams III[4] was criticized in particular for promoting pseudoscientific ideas like astrology, psychokinesis, and "psychoenergetics" as "Egyptian science."[5] Adams' essay is referenced in the article behind the Sokal affair;[6] in light of this the Baseline Essays themselves have sometimes been called a hoax,[7] but they are still available on the Portland Public Schools web site.[3]


  1. ^ Prophet, Matthew W. (Spring 1987). "Preface to the African/African-American Baseline Essays" (PDF). Portland Public Schools. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  2. ^ (1) Martel, Erich (December 1991). "How Valid Are the Portland Baseline Essays?" (PDF). Educational Leadership. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). Retrieved September 18, 2019.
    (2) Martel, Erich (February 20, 1994). "The Egyptian Illusion". Opinions. The Washington Post. Retrieved September 17, 2018.
    (3) D'Antonio, Michael (February 11, 1996). "Science fights back: is it winning?". Los Angeles Times. ProQuest 2044185102.
  3. ^ a b "Baseline Essays". Portland Public Schools. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  4. ^ Adams, Hunter Havelin III (1986). "African and African-American Contributions to Science and Technology" (PDF). Portland Public Schools. Archived from the original (PDF) on June 23, 2017. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  5. ^ Ortiz De Montellano, Bernard (Fall 1991). "Multicultural Pseudoscience: Spreading Scientific Illiteracy Among Minorities". Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  6. ^ Sokal, Alan D. "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity". Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  7. ^ Bennetta, William J. (May–June 1998). "Recalling the Portland Hoax". The Textbook League. Archived from the original on 2018-08-21. Retrieved July 7, 2018.