MIAMI, Fla. – Changes made to the curriculum for African American history in Florida schools is causing an uproar as Black leaders and teachers criticized the plan for omitting the hardships, violence and rape Blacks endured during slavery and the Jim Crow era.
The controversial new course will teach students that Blacks beneﬁted from slavery with job skills and they initiated violence including the Rosewood massacre in 1923 in Levy County, Florida, where dozens of Blacks were killed in a racially motivated attack.
Two white men were killed in the attack by one of the victims in self-defense but eyewitnesses’ accounts suggested the death toll was about 140 Blacks.
The lynching stemmed from accusations that a white woman was allegedly assaulted by a Black man and a mob of several hundred whites hunted down Blacks and killed them.
The new curriculum will also teach students that white people retaliated after two of their own men were shot and killed by a Black man instead of the victim shooting in self defense.
The Florida Department of Education announced the changes that were part of Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Stop W.O.K.E. Act which limits lessons on systemic racism in public schools.
The new curriculum drew public outcry from Black leaders nationwide including Vice Mayor Kamala Harris who traveled to Jacksonville on Friday to denounce the curriculum.
Harris condemned the new educational framework and said generations of kids will be deprived of the truth.
“Adults know what slavery really involves," she said. "It involved rape. It involved torture. It involved taking a baby from their mother. 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?” Harris said she attended a public school system where teachers provided the full expanse of information, encouraging students to then reach their own conclusions and exercise critical thought in a way that was directly intended to nurture their leadership.
“It is because of that approach that I stand before you as vice president of the United States,” she said.
DeSantis ﬁred back, saying the Biden’s administration should focus more on the border and military recruitment crisis and economic malaise created by Democrats.
“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 by his President campaign ofﬁce. “Florida stands in their way and we will continue to expose their agenda and their lies.
The education board said the revised Black history curriculum was necessary to prevent liberal indoctrination.
The new standards were crafted by 13 educators with a PH.D including Dr. William B. Allen who’s an African American and the dean of political philosophy at James Madison College.
The group wanted to document that Blacks beneﬁted from slavery by developing trade skills.
But critics said it’s not true.
Dr. Steve Gallon III, a Miami-Dade School board member and former high school principal, told the South Florida Times slavery was not a jobs training program and not a program that had some noble purpose.
"There was no beneﬁt to Blacks as a result of the evil, horriﬁc, divisive and destructive peculiar institution of slavery," he said. "Slavery only served to beneﬁt the racist, inhumane owners who saw Blacks as property less than human for free labor. Any suggestion otherwise is not patently false, but totally offensive."
In addition, critics said the course is limited to recognizing famous Black people, and high school teachers will talk about the acts of violence perpetrated by African Americans at the 1920 Ocoee Massacre, in which a white mob killed at least 30 Black people.
The NAACP, which issued a travel advisory to protest DeSantis’ attacks on Blacks, said the education board’s Black history standards are a joke.
"Our children deserve nothing less than truth, justice, and the equity our ancestors shed blood, sweat, and tears for.," said NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson.
Dwight Bullard, a former Florida State Senator from Miami and teacher, said the curriculum is trying to whitewash history.
“To be discussing African American history at this moment, with no one president who has felt the pain of the infliction of harm on African Americans. It’s overtly problematic,” Dwight Bullard told the board, pointing at the non-Black members of the board.
Dr. Marvin Dunn, psychology professor emeritus at Florida International University and longtime social justice activist, told the South Florida Times that the education board is rewriting history to make whites the victims and Blacks the violent offenders.
Dunn, who grew up during the Jim Crow era in Florida, said the curriculum is an affront to Black people.
"It’s dumb and stupid and it won’t fly," said Dunn, who is among the plaintiffs who ﬁled a lawsuit against DeSantis’ Stop W.O.K.E. Act. "Blacks did not initiate any violence in Florida."
Dunn said the course is devoid of stories of how Blacks died at the hands of white men and some hid in the woods for days in Florida to avoid execution.
The course also doesn’t teach students Blacks triumphs during slavery.
"A lot of contents are missing," he said. "What about the things that happened to our society at the time? When they take the emotional aspects out of history, it’s not history anymore."
As a result of the new curriculum for Black history, Dunn said, as part of his Teach the Truth tour, he’s planning additional trips with buses loaded with high school students to sites where Blacks were killed during the Rosewood and Ocoee massacres.
During previous visits on the tour, he said most kids, Blacks and whites, and their parents cried when they stood at the sites of the massacres.
"I asked them were they angry at white people and they said no? They said they were angry because they were not taught about the events in schools," Dunn said.
State Representative Ashley Gantt from North Miami said the new course has birthed an entirely new source of fuel in her.
But it must be noted also that the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) launched by President George W. Bush in 2003 is credited with saving millions of lives in Africa over the past 20 years, with funding increasing from $1.9 billion to $6.9 billion.
"There is no other way to interpret this but as an act of aggression to erase the brutality of enslavement and the ghosts of slavery that manifested as Jim Crow and structural and institutionalized racism," she said. "I hope you all are WOKE because the danger is imminent and evident. It always has been, but the dog whistles are in the trash now."