Black history education curriculum in Florida becomes national campaign fodder

by | Jul 24, 2023

  • New academic standards for teaching African American history in Florida schools have sparked national controversy.
  • Leading Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, criticize the standards, while Governor Ron DeSantis defends them.
  • The debate is intensified by the upcoming 2024 national election campaign, with DeSantis potentially being a Republican nominee.

New academic standards guiding Florida schools’ instruction on African American history have sparked national controversy, drawing criticism from leading Democrats, including Vice President Kamala Harris, and sparking a defense from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The debate comes amidst a contentious political atmosphere as the 2024 national election campaign looms, with DeSantis as a potential Republican nominee.

The state Board of Education approved the new standards last Wednesday, designed to guide lessons from kindergarten through high school. They include various requirements, from teaching kindergarten students about African American inventors and explorers to a controversial provision in middle-school curriculum stating that instruction should include “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Democratic lawmakers, civil rights leaders, educators, and members of the Florida Education Association teachers union and the NAACP Florida State Conference have already criticized the new standards, arguing that the guidelines omit key facts about Black history and frame certain historical events inaccurately.

“This is the United States of America. We’re not supposed to do that,” Harris said during an appearance in Jacksonville, condemning the state officials for approving these changes. “It is a reasonable expectation that our children will not be misled and that’s what’s so outrageous, happening right now.”

But Democrats aren’t planning to let up anytime soon. At 11am on Monday, religious and civil-rights leaders will hold an online meeting to criticize controversial new standards.

Meanwhile, DeSantis, a frequent opponent of the Biden administration who is rumored to be considering a 2024 presidential run, waded into the fray.

“Democrats like Kamala Harris have to lie about Florida’s educational standards to cover for their agenda of indoctrinating students and pushing sexual topics onto children,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Florida stands in their way and we will continue to expose their agenda and their lies,”

State Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. and Paul Burns, chancellor of the Department of Education’s Division of K-12 Public Schools, echoed DeSantis, defending the standards prior to their approval and accusing critics of spreading a “false narrative” about the new guidelines.

Some of the most vocal opposition centered on the middle school curriculum’s inclusion of how slaves developed skills that could, at times, benefit them personally.

“I am very concerned by these standards, especially…the notion that enslaved people benefited from being enslaved. It’s inaccurate and a scary standard for us to establish in our educational curriculum,” said State Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat.

Other critics, such as State Senator Geraldine Thompson, also questioned a part of the high school curriculum discussing violent acts perpetrated by and against African Americans during specific historical events. Thompson took issue with the phrasing, suggesting it blames the victims for the violence.

The controversy is likely to remain a point of national contention as it unfolds within the context of the 2024 presidential race. As Democrats and Republicans maneuver for advantage, the discourse surrounding Florida’s education standards will likely remain an essential part of the political conversation.


  1. H. Fremont Bragg

    I thought we got rid of racist politicians years ago. Obviously not.

    • M Baird


    • Woe n Lu in it

      Only a MAGA moron would try to depict any “skill” forced or acquired by enslaved black people as positive. How positive was it that enslaved black people were lynched if they were caught learning to read. Manny Diaz is the personification of the term MAGA moron racist.

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  2. MHDuuuval

    Antebellum Southerners liked to brag about how they brought Christianity to the savage Africans, circumventing a prohibition on holding fellow Christians in bondage by making a legal exception in the mid-1600s, and having the mother’s status determine that of each generation that followed. (Enslaved mother = enslaved children.)

    Suffice to say that the root of enslavement is kidnapping, which normally requires violence. An estimated 12 million Africans were kidnapped and sent to the New World — an estimated 200,000+ eventually landed in British North America and later the US.

  3. Stan

    Perhaps more scrutiny would be applied to the book text if a parent files an objection and demands it be withdrawn from student access during a long and circuitous review process…

  4. Robert

    I do not believe we know the complete context from which the published statement was taken. I can see some of the skills that slaves may have learned as being a positive, but GREATLY out weighed by the negatives of such an abhorrent practice. The statement does not try and excuse the barbary that was slavery. To judge out of context is to act as ignorantly as those you are condemning.

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