Florida’s Board of Education voted to approve several new rules this week, including teaching that African Americans benefited from their enslavement.
The new curriculum has sparked outrage and accusations of racism, setting up a new school year unlike any other because of these changes and other laws passed by state lawmakers and signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
One of the most controversial rules drawing significant pushback is the alteration of the standards of instruction for African American history.
Critics argue that the new standards attempt to rewrite Black history in a deeply concerning manner.
Democratic state lawmakers made their objections known at the board’s meeting on July 19, expressing particular concern over one instructional change implying enslaved individuals benefited from their enslavement.
“Any kind of standards that indicate that slavery benefited Black people is such an insult,” said State Rep. Rita Harris. Rep. Anna Eskamani also said: “The notion that enslaved people benefited from being enslaved is inaccurate and a scary standard for us to establish in our education system.”
The new rule faced additional opposition from a coalition of Black leaders and community groups, who wrote a letter to the school board asserting that the standards intentionally omitted or distorted crucial historical facts about the Black experience.
Despite the widespread criticism, the board plans to implement the new rule on African American history instruction, along with several others, in classrooms across the state during the upcoming school year.
The move adds to the state’s ongoing debate over African American history in education, further exacerbated by the education department’s rejection of a preliminary pilot version of an Advanced Placement African American Studies course for high school students, citing an alleged lack of educational value.
Under the new standards imposed by the board and DeSantis, teachers will instruct middle school students about how enslaved people developed skills they could use to benefit themselves.
The curriculum omits the brutal horrors of slavery, the inhumane treatment of African Americans, the rape and torture of enslaved people, the selling and separating of families, and even the brutal mistreatment of children and babies.
The new curriculum will teach high school students about events like the 1920 Ocoee massacre, the deadliest Election Day violence in U.S. history that began when White poll workers prevented Moses Norman, a Black landowner, from voting.
The rule stipulates that instructions also must include details about the Atlanta race massacre, the Tulsa race massacre, and the Rosewood race massacre.
“Our children deserve nothing less than truth, justice, and the equity our ancestors shed blood, sweat, and tears for,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said.
“It is imperative that we understand that the horrors of slavery and Jim Crow were a violation of human rights and represent the darkest period in American history.”