Florida Department of Education Defends New Black History Standards Despite Criticism from Vice President and Others

The State Board of Education on Wednesday approved new academic standards for teaching African American history.

TALLAHASSEE, Florida. The Florida Department of Education is defending newly approved standards for teaching African American history in Florida schools, despite further criticism from Vice President Kamala Harris and other prominent figures this week.

“It’s sad to see how critics try to discredit what any unbiased observer would consider to be deep and comprehensive standards of African American history,” said Alex Lanfranconi, director of communications for the Florida Department of Education. “They include all the components of African American history: the good, the bad, and the ugly.”

The criticism comes in part because the new curriculum includes instructions for middle school students to learn “how slaves developed skills that in some cases could be applied to their own personal gain.”

“It’s unheard of, it’s shameless, it’s absurd and ridiculous,” said Dr. Samuel Wright, former vice chairman of the state’s African American Task Force. He stepped down after a list of new members was appointed last month.

“Being a slave was unwitting, how dare they tell kids in the state of Florida about this nonsense,” Wright added.

The new standards were also criticized by the Florida Educational Association Union and the NAACP, which said, in part, that “the actions of the Florida state government are an attempt to return our country to 19th century America, where black lives were not valued and our rights were not protected.”

The Department of Education is defending the board’s decision to adopt the standards, which they say were developed by a working group of 13 educators and academics.

Two of these task force members, Dr. William Allen and Dr. Francis Presley Rice, provided a statement to 10 Tampa Bay, which reads in part: “The purpose of this particular clarification of the benchmark is to show that some slaves were engaged in highly specialized trades from which they benefited. This is true and well documented.”

They added: “Any attempt to turn the slaves into mere victims of oppression fails to recognize their strength, courage and resilience during a difficult period in American history. Florida students deserve to learn how slaves took advantage of whatever circumstances they were in to benefit themselves and the African descendant community.”

While some standards are not immediately effective, some groups are calling on the board to reconsider their implementation.

“The adoption of the Florida State Academic Standards for Social Research by the Florida Board of Education not only deliberately omits or rewrites key historical facts about the black experience, it also ignores the legislative intent of Florida Law 1003.42,” Genesis Robinson, political director of Equal Ground, said.

To read the full set of standards, click here.

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