Florida’s new African American history standards draw rebukes from Black leaders, teachers’ union
Ron DeSantis' Reedy Creek dissolution is heading to court.

The curriculum includes framing labor skills African Americans developed while enslaved as potentially ‘applied for their personal benefit.’

Florida’s newly adopted K-12 curriculum for African American history is drawing censure from community leaders, elected officials and the state’s largest education organization for what they complain is a glossing over of shameful chapters in America’s past.

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr., a Hialeah Republican, called the new standards “robust” and inclusive of “the slave trade, Jim Crow laws, civil rights movement (and) everything that occurred throughout our history.”

“If anyone takes the time to actually look at the standards, you can see that everything is covered,” he said.

Critics, however, argued the curriculum — which includes framing labor skills slaves developed as potentially “applied for their personal benefit” and a disproportionate conflation of violence against Black citizens with violence by them — as a “big step backward.”

“How can our students ever be equipped for the future if they don’t have a full, honest picture of where we’ve come from?” said Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest union with more than 150,000 members.

“Florida’s students deserve a world-class education that equips them to be successful adults who can help heal our nation’s divisions rather than deepen them, (and they) deserve the full truth of American history, the good and the bad.”

The new, 216-page set of guidelines, which the Florida Board of Education adopted Wednesday after more than an hour of mostly oppositional public testimony, do not include a requirement for elementary and middle school students to learn about Black history after the Reconstruction era, a period of marked hostility and discrimination against African Americans.

Students must be able to “identify African Americans who demonstrated heroism and patriotism,” including Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the Tuskegee Airmen, among others. But in something of a confirmation of concerns raised in March, when a sample first grade textbook for Florida omitted race and context from a description of Parks, there is no requirement that students understand or learn important details about the actions and contributions of those noteworthy figures.

For pre-Civil War lessons, middle school students must be taught “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” per a new benchmark clarification.

During discussion Wednesday over the changes, Paul Burns, deputy chancellor for the Florida Department of Education’s K-12 division, insisted that language does not mean lessons are meant to teach that slavery itself was beneficial.

“Our standards are factual, objective standards that really teach the good, the bad and the ugly,” he said.

Tampa Democratic Rep. Dianne Hart pointed out those standards did not fully implement the recommendations of the African American History Task Force, including “contemporary issues impacting Africans and African Americans.”

She called the new guidelines “a lackluster version of American history.”

“The African American curriculum simply has elementary students identifying various famous African Americans,” she said in a statement. “Education is a critical part of an individual’s personal foundation and when you choose to build a foundation on falsehoods, lies, or by simply erasing history, you’ve laid a foundation that will ultimately fail.”

The curriculum also notes that high school teachings about several instances of mass killings, including the 1920 Ocoee Massacre in which a White mob murdered at least 30 African Americans for attempting to vote, should include instruction on “acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans.”

“That’s blaming the victim,” said Orlando Democratic Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who worked to pass a 2020 law requiring instruction about the Ocoee Massacre.

Florida’s new public education guidelines come more than a year after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the “Stop WOKE Act,” a controversial law prohibiting instruction school lessons that tell students they are inherently racist, sexist or oppressive because of their race, color, sex or national origin.

The measure, which initially extended to the workplace and colleges until a judge blocked those provisions, also bars lessons that convey guilt to students for the past actions of members of their race, color, sex or national origin.

“We are not going to use your tax dollars to teach our kids to hate this country or to hate each other,” the Governor said before signing the bill on April 23, 2022.

In January, the Florida Department of Education banned a pilot advanced placement African American Studies course from high schools, explaining, “The content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law, and significantly lacks educational value.”

Diaz defended the move, noting that lessons on Black queer studies, the Movement for Black Lives, Black feminist literary thought and reparations and intersectionality, a “foundational” tenet of critical race theory, are “obvious violations” of state education standards.

The White House and Florida branches of the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union disagreed, decrying the ban as “pandering to those who willfully ignore the truth (and set) a dangerous precedent that undermines the education of our children — particularly Black children.”

State lawmakers passed legislation in 1994 requiring K-12 instruction on the history, culture, experiences and contributions of African Americans.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at Jess[email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


  • Ron DeSantis is a Racist

    July 19, 2023 at 4:45 pm

    Ron DeSatnis is a racist. Nothing will convince me otherwise.

    And thats the only reason his supporters are behind him. They are ALL racists. Every single one of them.

    Why else would you support a guy who has actively worked to make the life of the average Floridian worse?

  • My Take

    July 19, 2023 at 5:01 pm

    Next we will hear their argument that slavery benefited the slaves, and thus today’s black Americans, by bringing them Christianity.

  • My Take

    July 19, 2023 at 5:03 pm

    Imagine if Germany’s schools couldn’t tell of how bad the Nazis were.

    • That’s next

      July 22, 2023 at 11:37 am

      That will be in next years Florida education bill.

  • My Take

    July 19, 2023 at 5:08 pm

    There is a history to this hiding of white man’s sins.
    I went through Florida public schools and university. I was a mature adult before I even heard of the Black Laws, to place freed slaves into a state of serfdom.

  • Ocean Joe

    July 19, 2023 at 5:35 pm

    I never learned about Rosewood or the Mims lynching until long after leaving public schools and never learned about the Tulsa massacre until Trump scheduled a poorly attended rally there on that day.

    Hiding all this stuff doesn’t make it go away. Nobody today needs to feel guilty about it unless they (or their policies) perpetuate it.

  • Dont Say FLA

    July 20, 2023 at 9:15 am

    GOP’s attempt at recasting slavery, while racist, yes, racism is not the point.

    The GOP platform position, “Slavery is okay,” is more about their PLAN for all of us.

    The rich are so stinking rich, there’s only one thing left to do for making them any richer, and that is to just stop paying us our puny little pittances that they currently permit us to have purely from the goodness of their hearts because we definitely aren’t worth whatever piddling compensation we are currently granted. We should smile for the privilege of working 12 hours a day in exchange for one penny.

  • Rob Desantos

    July 20, 2023 at 10:25 am

    All Florida GQP are racists and Manny Diaz is their useful idiot. This is just embarrassing.

  • My Take

    July 20, 2023 at 3:54 pm

    The southern GOP IS the old segregation wing of the southern Democratic Party

  • The Mask is officially Off.

    July 20, 2023 at 3:58 pm

    The Republican Party is OFFICIALLY the party of despicable racist filth.

    If you are a Republican after this you are swine.

  • My Take

    July 21, 2023 at 7:25 am

    DeSSantis’s Unfree Florida
    >Teaching about the horror of centuries of slavery and long deep degradation of Jim Crow, at their very sites!–ILLEGAL
    >Teaching about the decade of unspeakable horror of the Holocaust, on a distant continent–REQUIRED

    • My Take

      July 22, 2023 at 10:30 am

      DeSSgustus should hire any old surviving editor of The Great Soviet Encyclopedia.
      They were masters at editing and whìtewashing national history.

  • Alyssa

    July 28, 2023 at 4:44 am

    what is concerning to me, is the fact that many Republican pundits are defending this curriculum..so much for the party of Lincoln..anyone regardless of party affiliation should be horrified by this curriculum and quite literally should have ended Desantis’ career and prevented him from holding any public office…but here we are…anyone with a D and an I by their name needs to vote out all of those republicans in the florida state legislature as well as the Governorship and undo all the harm they have done over the past year.

  • Alyssa

    July 28, 2023 at 4:50 am

    …no to mention…calling the VP a liar when she is reading verbatim what the curriculum says? no she didnt recite all of it….not reciting all of it does not make her a liar by any stretch of the imagination…yet here we are ..again….I seriously hope this and the other laws the Florida legislature has imposed on Floridians gets struck down in Federal courts as this is NOT what America is about..they talk about Freedom yet can’t cite where any of their freedoms have been taken away….and meanwhile pass law after law restricting Freedoms from those that do not agree with them…Desantis wants to make it illegal for a retired general to criticize a sitting President..this isnt made up…its fact….anyone that would want this fascist Dictator as President, heck even continue being Governor really needs to read history….these Republicans at one point tried to pass a law outlawing…the Democratic Party due to what they represented in 1860….seems its pretty obvious that these parties have flipped long ago..and the current Republican party is actually getting worse…much worse than the old time Dixie Democrats ever imagined.

Comments are closed.


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