Florida’s New African-American History Teaching Standards Accused Of Being Pro-Slavery

The state’s Board of Education has been accused of “water[ing] down” slavery and teaching that it was beneficial, but the new standards themselves condemn slavery.

Written by Briana Oser

What’s happening: Florida’s Board of Education has unanimously approved new standards for teaching black history. The standards are in compliance with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s Stop WOKE Act, which banned critical race theory and racially biased material in schools in April of last year. Vice President Kamala Harris flew down to Florida on Friday to rally against the new curriculum, saying the standards “replace history with lies.”

In the headlines: The standards have been blasted as a “step backward” that “water[s] down [black] history.” The most contentious part is a middle-school benchmark clarification that reads, “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” Critics have distorted this to mean that students will learn that slavery was beneficial to slaves.

Beyond the headlines: One of Florida’s goals was to remove biased history material propagated by the likes of The 1619 Project, the simplistic and ahistorical project, taught in classrooms nationwide which argues that the American Revolution was fought to save slavery and aims to reframe slavery as the most important aspect of American history. Florida’s new standards aim to instead provide an objective account of African-American history.

  • Dive deeper: The project argues that American prosperity was built on slavery and suggests that the U.S. created the concept of racial slavery. It also ignores those American founders and leaders who rejected slavery.

Out of context: The new curriculum tells the truth about slavery: It covers “how slave codes resulted in an enslaved person becoming property with no rights” and how slavery was contrary to America’s founding principles of “liberty, justice and equality.” The idea that slaves’ skills could sometimes benefit them comes from a broader topic of how slaves could use some of these skills, such as “agricultural work, painting, carpentry,” to potentially achieve emancipation and earn a living via self-hire.

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