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Critics call Florida's African American history standards 'insulting' and 'demeaning'

'He’s not going to rewrite history,' Black Leaders to fight states' new history standards
Posted at 7:24 PM, Jul 24, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. — Outrage continued Monday over Florida’s new standards for teaching black history.

"He's not going to rewrite and redefine black history, not while we’re still alive," Dr. RB Holmes Jr., a minister a Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, said during a Zoom call with other Florida religious leaders, civil rights activists, and community organizers.

The group held a virtual press conference Monday morning to announce a series of actions they are taking in response to Florida’s newly adopted social studies curriculum for middle schoolers. Critics believe the curriculum, which Florida’s Board of Education approved last week, suggests slaves benefited from being enslaved.

"It's just insulting, it's demeaning, it should not exist," Barbara Arnwine with the Transformative Justice Coalition.


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While the new guidelines include teaching some of the harsh conditions slaves were subject to, it also includes instruction on how slaves "developed skills, which in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit," according to the curriculum.

"It's insulting to imply that somehow we have to be enslaved to get any kind of skills," Arnwine added during the Zoom.

As a result, Reverand Holmes Jr. announced they will be protesting the new education policies by holding demonstrations, creating their own history teaching task force, opening new "freedom" schools, and filing a new lawsuit against the state.
WPTV education reporter Stephanie Susskind contacted all of the area school districts for their reaction to the new standards. Martin County was the only district to get back Monday. Leaders released a statement that says, "Our Instructional Services team will continue to comprehensively review the standards and associated guidance issued by the Florida Department of Education. As is the case each year, we will ensure our students are receiving fact- and standards-based instruction that is aligned with legislation and FLDOE rules."

During a presidential campaign stop in Utah over the weekend, Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared to try to distance himself from his home state’s latest classroom controversy.

"I didn't do it. I wasn't involved in it," he said before quickly doubling down.

"I think what they're doing is probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed being a blacksmith into doing things later in life," DeSantis said when asked about it by reporters.

DeSantis' press team was quick to strike back by tweeting out excerpts from a recent ABC News interview with Dr. William Allen, one of the members who served on Florida's African-American history standards work group, which helped create the new standards.

"It was never said that slavery was beneficial to Africans. What was said, and anyone who reads this will see this with clarity, is the case that Africans proved resourceful, resilient, and adaptive and were able to develop skills and aptitudes which served to their benefit both while enslaved and after enslavement," Allen told ABC News.

"You can develop resiliency in a million ways. It doesn't have to involve the enslavement of black bodies," House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell said Monday. Over the weekend, she called for the resignation of Florida’s Education Commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr., a former Republican Senator before DeSantis appointed him the state’s education boss.

"What they're suggesting is that look on the bright side of slavery. There is no bright side," Fentrice said.

Last week Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz tweeted that Florida is focused on teaching accurate African American history. As for calls for his resignation, as of Monday afternoon, neither the Commissioner nor his office provided a response.

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