Manny Diaz defends Black history standards after Kamala Harris’ attack

Diaz responded to critics, saying 'atrocities' were covered in the standards without 'varnishing anything.'

Florida’s Education Commissioner is speaking out in the wake of criticism of the state’s newly adopted 216-page set of guidelines for the teaching of Black history that include assertions that enslaved people may have derived “benefit” from slavery because they “developed skills.”

Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. told radio host Guy Benson that critics, including Vice President Kamala Harris, are missing the point. He noted the controversial statement is merely a subpoint in a larger document.

Diaz explained that “scholars” created the “benchmarks,” which “delve into the ugliest part of our history without removing anything.”

He described “hundreds of pages going into each individual instance in this period of time, both during slavery, pre-slavery telling the story and the atrocities of the treatment of Africans that were enslaved, and that passage over to the New World.”

“Also the plantation life, both in America and in the Caribbean because there was a lot of transfer. All of the atrocities, all of the terrible things that happened bluntly explained in and covered in these standards as well as post-Civil War Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, discrimination, beatdowns, the Civil Rights movement.”

While all of that is “very, very, very transparently covered without varnishing anything,” Diaz noted the inclusion of “stories of individuals, individual slaves who through their perseverance, their strength, their resiliency, figured out how to acquire skills despite the fact that these atrocities were being committed, despite the fact that they were in a system where human beings were being owned.”

In a 25-minute speech at Jacksonville’s historic Ritz Theater Friday, Vice President Harris railed at the Ron DeSantis administration’s attempt to “gaslight” Black people at the horrors of slavery.

“Adults know what slavery really involved — come on! It involves rape. It involves torture. It involves taking a baby from their mother. It involved some of the worst examples of depriving people of humanity in our world. It involves subjecting people to the requirement that they would think of themselves as less than human,” Harris said.

“So in the context of that, how is it that anyone could suggest that in the midst of these atrocities, that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization?” she added. “That in the midst of these atrocities there were some benefits?”

Diaz accused the Vice President of trying to “gaslight” her audience, meanwhile. He described Harris as “someone who has picked up some talking points (from) the teachers union and just tried to gaslight Americans into believing this.”

During a press conference in Utah last Friday, DeSantis accused the Vice President of trying to “chirp” and “demagogue” about the controversial instructional standards, which he described as the most “robust” in the country. He distanced himself from the enactment, urging reporters to ask the Board of Education about the new rules.

The Governor also defended the assertion that some Black people indeed benefited from slavery by learning marketable skills.

“I think what they’re doing is I think that they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith into doing things later in life,” DeSantis said.

As the interview ended, Diaz defended DeSantis, while saying he had no plans to resign his office under pressure from the left.

“That’s simply just political rhetoric taking a shot,” Diaz said. “Just like this White House is obsessed with Florida and taking shots at Gov. DeSantis and telling lies, his opponents within the state are doing the same thing and, having gone through this, seen these politics for 10 years in the Legislature prior to being the Commissioner, it’s very apparent that this is just a political cheap shot that they’re taking.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


  • DeSantis has taking a page out of the Nazi playbook

    July 25, 2023 at 4:17 pm

    does anyone think that this would be anything different coming from? DeSantis is sycophant appointees.? the state of Florida is becoming the number one bedrock for Nazi ideology

  • Joe

    July 25, 2023 at 4:29 pm

    Manny Diaz is a joke and an embarrassment to the entire state.

    • Race Traitor Manny 🌮

      July 25, 2023 at 4:48 pm

      A race traitor

  • Ocean Joe

    July 25, 2023 at 4:33 pm

    Manny, what were you guys thinking? Whataboutism only works at Turning Point conventions. You screwed your master out of any shot at the presidency.

    • Ocean Joe

      July 25, 2023 at 4:56 pm

      Do the new history standards also teach that it was a good thing for Cuban Americans to flee their own country to escape a ruthless dictator just because they ended up learning skills or made fortunes here?
      Is that something you would want Florida schools to teach?

  • You’re Not White

    July 25, 2023 at 4:47 pm

    This filthy Christian race-traitor isnt going to like the White master and his pandering to them will not be forgotten.

    Race traitor.

  • Marvin Mouse

    July 25, 2023 at 5:22 pm

    ‘Gaslighting’ for Democrats is even more signaficent than ‘The Passage Of Time’.
    The bending over, the correct placement, and correct timing of the ignition of the bic lighter all in keeping in exact conjunction with the flatulance gas release is all very significant.

  • PeterH

    July 25, 2023 at 5:30 pm

    If that’s the way you feel about Manny ……why not allow teachers to teach without government interference??

  • PeterH

    July 25, 2023 at 5:33 pm

    Holocaust survivors learned how to build bombs for Hitler. Are they proud of the skills they’ve learned? Did they continue to manufacture bombs?

  • Christopher

    July 25, 2023 at 5:41 pm

    The examples of slaves who aquired skills to improve their lives as offered by the state panel that redrafted of this ugly piece of U.S. history included several African Americans who were BORN FREE!!! Furthermore. enslaved Africans could only be helped by any aquired skills WHEN THEY BECAME FREE!!! Slaves who acquired skills but died as slaves gained nothing. A further full study of slavery’s impact would also show how poor white people also failed to gain advantages from slavery. In a true free economy, these people, who rich white people dubbed poor white trash, would’ve been the farm workers & ranch hands. Some of them would’ve acquired the skills & improved their lives much sooner because they were free. But even poor white trash would’ve required PAY. And why would Vice President Harris, a black woman, need any help from anyone to tell Florida officials they made a serious error.

    Slavery existed in America to make plantation owners & their financial supporters rich. It’s also why undocumented Hispanics flood our nation. They’re willing to work cheaper than Americans doing jobs we’d want more pay for, like slaughtering animals.

  • Denny

    July 25, 2023 at 5:50 pm

    Diaz is absolutely right about this. Ask yourself: where are the professional historical organizations attacking these standards: the Southern Historial ASsociation? The American Historical Association? How about any Black historical association? How about any recognized post secondary historian? Eric Foner? David Blight? The only recognized historian who has commented has been Kevin Kruse at Princeton, ultra left, who found almost of the standards “fine.” The only people complaining about the standards are politicians and press. I wonder why. How about faux historians Jon Meacham and Michael Beschloss, who love to pontificate on MSNBC? Silence. Because they know what fools they would be making of themselves.

    • Julia

      July 25, 2023 at 5:56 pm

      Finally, someone on this site who has a little commonsense and intellectual integrity. Why is it so hard to find here?

    • JD

      July 25, 2023 at 6:21 pm

      Ask yourself, if it is perhaps just early?

      I would like to know how Blight and Foner weigh in as well.

      • Denny

        July 25, 2023 at 7:16 pm

        David Blight sits by his telephone waiting for the Washington Post to call. And he and Kruse are the Larry Tribes of the history profession on twitter. Kruse almost immediately tweeted a critique of the standards then had to largely retract it once he had read them. When DeSantis killed the AP Black History standards, Blight threatened to hold a conference about them in South Florida. Nothing happened. If Blight, Foner and the historical organizations thought they would look good, they would have pounced on this.

    • MH/Duuuval

      July 25, 2023 at 10:30 pm

      Manny has a history of being a ham-handed autocrat — but that’s beside the point here.

      Few folks — including you, I suspect — have actually read the 200-page document, so far, but the troubling thing to me is that reporters have not been able thus far to establish who the authors of the guidelines are.

      Nor do we know the source of the Governor’s ardent interest in this subject — beyond gerrymandering Black voting districts.

      • Denny

        July 26, 2023 at 8:45 am

        Actually, I have read the new standards, just as I was asked two years ago by DOE to review the new civic literacy standards. Why don’t you do a FOIA request for who made up the authors of the guidelines? Other newspapers have published their names, and smeared them, of course.. We know that Dr. Allen from Michigan State co-chaired it and he has cleaned the deck with its critics. The governor is interested because he was a history major, taught history for a while.

  • MH/Duuuval

    July 25, 2023 at 11:37 pm

    The kernel of the problem here is Ron’s attempt to censor Black History, which first evinced itself when he took on AP African American history.

    Check out John Hope Franklin’s classic From Slavery to Freedom, the standard text of college classes, now is being edited by Evelyn Higginbotham of Harvard. CRT, Black feminism, LGBTQ, reparations, and yes, Black conservatives like Clarence Thomas and Thomas Sowell, are all subjects or topics in this text because they actually exist(ed) and continue to exist In an ongoing Black American discourse.

    And, the reader won’t find many, if any, free Blacks confused with enslaved ones.

    • Denny

      July 26, 2023 at 8:58 am

      The kernel of the problem wasn’t “Ron’s attempt to censor Black History” but to make sure it didn’t become more Queer propogands, which the AP course certainly was. I grade the AP History exams every year, by the way. John Hope Franklin’s book is certainly fine—as Dr. Allen said in his interview—but what is your point about mentioning it? There is no evidence at all the new standards contradict Franklin, and indeed much in his book supports the idea that enslaved people learned things which gave them agency, even under the worst oppression. I’ll go back to my original post on this: it’s been five days since these standards were released, plenty of time to read them. Why has no historical organization, the AHA, the SHA, the Association for the Study of AFrican American Life and History, issued a statement attacking these standards? Or any nationally known historian with the exception of Kevin Kruse whose objections came down to his belief that the standards list too many Republicans as supporters of Civil Rights. Give me a break!

      • MH/Duuuval

        July 26, 2023 at 12:51 pm

        So, you graded AP exams for African American history? The course is just now being rolled out.

        Your comments about the various historical organizations is a red herring and you would know this if you had ever attended one of their annual meetings or read any of the official pronouncements. (No doubt future conclaves will hash this out.)

        I mentioned Dr. Franklin’s book because it is a standard in the field, and if you were familiar with the current edition, you would know that the topics that Ron seeks to censor are included in the text reflecting the ongoing dialogue among Black folks — including queer theory. There is now and always has been diversity among African Americans, as among all Americans.

        The question of agency is an urgent one that every US historian working must wrestle with. I see a partisan teleology at work with Black conservatives — a decided minority within the larger Black community — driving the agenda in Red states like Florida.

        The bottom line remains: Africans were kidnapped, by Africans at the behest of Europeans, and transported across the Atlantic Ocean by Europeans where they were sold as perpetual chattel.

        And, after Africans resisted enslavement by every means possible since the late 1400s, the only reparations paid ANYWHERE went to slave owners.

        • Denny

          July 26, 2023 at 7:28 pm

          I said that I have graded the AP History exams every year for 10 years, not the African-American History exams which, as you say, are new. I have been asked to grade them next year, if they last. The AHA, SHA and other organizations are not shy in issuing statements when they feel they have a leg to stand on. The SHA, for example, ran a blurb in their quarterly journal for a year year denouncing Donald Trump’s immigration policy. If they had any complaints about the standards they would say so. I have not, as you say, read the latest edited version of Dr. Franklin’s book and have nothing to add except that it is not his work and do not know how he would react to Queer theory by inserted in it. I am sure that W.E.B. DuBois would be interested in your thoughts about the “partisan teleology” of Black agency emanating from Black conservatives. No one questions that Africans were kidnapped into slavery; I am relieved to see you admit that other Africans were complicit in it. However, even in the horrors of the oppression of slavery, many of them endured and later prospered due to their ability to use their brains and wits.. To deny that is to deny the work of DuBois, Franklin, and many more.

          • Denny

            July 26, 2023 at 9:29 pm

            I have a major correction to make to my postings here: after five days, the number of nationally-known historians who have opposed these standards is up to two (no, not Marvin Dunn down in Miami, who is not a historian, but likes to play one on the internet): Bruce Levine, emeritus prof at the University of Illinois told PolitiFact that he rejected the value of spotlighting “skills” learned while enslaved, and, of course brought up the Holocaust. PolitiFact used his interview to rate Kamala’s speech “mostly true” which ought to tell you everything you need to know about the Poynter Institute. It’s up to two: let the avalanche begin!

          • MH/Duuuval

            July 27, 2023 at 1:48 pm

            “I am sure that W.E.B. DuBois would be interested in your thoughts about the “partisan teleology” of Black agency emanating from Black conservatives.” If you’re capable of channeling Du Bois, do so, but otherwise no deflecting, please.

            Dr. Franklin, ditto. Neither he nor his successor Dr. Higginbotham evince any fear about any aspect of Black history.

            Africans certainly were complicit in the Atlantic slave trade, who can deny that. But, it didn’t take long for Europeans to introduce a trade in firearms and artillery in exchange for human chattel. Those groups living on or near the Atlantic coast became caught up in an arms race: Enslave others or be enslaved oneself.

            Read Douglass’ “Narrative,” then come back and talk.

        • Denny

          July 26, 2023 at 9:55 pm

          So Africans “resisted enslavement by every means possible” and that’s not proof of their agency, or their ability to utilize skills?

          • MH/Duuuval

            July 27, 2023 at 9:38 pm

            Agency is not the question here, at least not for me, but rather the implicit idea that enslaving Africans and transporting them across the Atlantic was necessary for some to thrive — and too bad for those who didn’t.

            Reparations, Affirmative Action, LGBTQ, lynching, CRT are all subjects Black folk debate, discuss, and may agree or disagree about — regardless of what some white (autocratic) men imagine is appropriate or accurate.

  • Nicholas Whitehead

    July 26, 2023 at 11:23 am

    Gov moRon DiiSaster and his cronies have done more to harm Florida than anything since the arrival of Europeans. They break the law with impunity. Have stolen billions from the tax payers and turned Florida into an international laughing stock. Hopefully, Florida voters will not be so stupid next time.

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