Teachers are fighting back against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s whitewashing of Black history for all of the state’s K-12 students and those in public colleges. In addition to changing the African-American Advanced Placement (AP) course, the Florida State Board of Education added controversial language about slavery.
CBS News reports that Renee O’Connor, the 2022 Miami-Dade Public Schools Teacher of the Year, headed to the United Nations in Geneva to discuss complaints about Florida education standards. She had taught African-American History and AP courses for the past 12 years.
Florida’s Community Justice Project members invited O’Connor and three others to travel with a group scheduled to meet the UN Human Rights Committee.
CBS News further reported: “Along with representatives of Dream Defenders, Florida Rising, Power U Center for Social Change, Novo Collegian Alliance, and SURU, the Community Justice Project published a 16-page report called ‘Florida: A Shadow Over the Sunshine State.”
The United Nations committee invited the Community Justice Project, O’Connor, Miami Northwestern Senior High School student Ebony Felton, May 2023 graduate New College of Florida Madison Markham, and Maven Leadership Collective founder Corey Davis to testify.
O’Connor told CBS News: “I hope that my voice will be the voice of teachers that are afraid to speak up or don’t have the opportunity to speak up. I’m really doing this for all my students.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis v. African-American History
The Florida governor, who is also running for the 2024 presidential nomination, started the campaign to dismantle African-American history last year. He signed the “Stop Woke Act” on April 22, 2022.
The law prohibits teaching anything that might “make students feel they bear personal responsibility, guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress for in the past committed by members of their own race, and blocked instruction that suggested anyone was either privileged or oppressed based on their race or skin color,” reports The Florida-Times Union.
Furthermore, the new African-American history law “requires discussions about race to be taught in an objective manner and bans any discussion used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.” Naturally, that meant the curriculum needed to be rewritten to align with the new requirements.
Last spring, 2023, DeSantis coerced the College Board to alter its High School African-American AP to alter course material. His objection to the course’s content was based on the widespread Republican agenda against the progressive social justice movement.
By midsummer, the Florida State Board of Education published a 216-page document outlining the state’s 2023 social studies standards.
It includes language most people find offensive, such as “slaves developed skills, which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit,” and Black people were perpetrators of violence during race massacres.
O’Connor said, “It was that moment that was really the nail in the coffin for me.”
“I think when you’re in your classroom, you have to worry about what your principal is going to say, what the district will feel about a teacher standing up for herself, for her students, and for this really important class.”
The school board document says: “Instruction includes acts of violence perpetrated against and by African Americans is not limited to the 1906 Atlanta Race Riot, 1919 Washington, D.C. Race Riot, 1920 Ocoee Massacre, 1921 Tulsa Massacre, and the 1923 Rosewood Massacre in Florida.”
According to the school board’s document, the January 5, 1923, Rosewood massacre was perpetrated by African-American Floridians. However, the Equal Justice Initiative says, “A mob of over 200 white men attacked the Black community in Rosewood, Florida.” The mob killed over 30 Black women, men, and children. They used fire to destroy the town, which forced all survivors to flee Rosewood permanently.
In September 2023, DeSantis and Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. patted themselves on the back for the state’s ranking of being the number one state in the country for Education Freedom and first in open enrollment, funding, and financing programs, reports CBS News.
Vice President Kamala Harris Criticizes New African-American Curriculum
Vice President Kamala Harris has publically criticized Florida’s new curriculum. She passionately denounced Florida’s new African-American history courses for K-12 schools.
Harris compared the new guidelines that teach slavery was beneficial to enslaved people as “not only misleading, it is false.” She accused the state of “pushing propaganda on our children.”
The Vice President called the assertion that enslaved people somehow benefited “not only insulting and absurd — pointing out how slavery entailed torture, separating families, and enforcing the belief that some people are less than human.”
Harris continued: “How is it that anyone could suggest in the midst of these atrocities that there was any benefit to being subjects to this level of dehumanization.”
She further criticized the state’s new educational standards that require high schools to teach that the perpetrators in some racially motivated massacres were Black Americans.
The Vice President called these African-American history “lessons as efforts by extremists to replace history with lies.”
In response, DeSantis accused the Vice President of lying. “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.”
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
CBS News Miami: Black history teacher takes Florida education standards complaints to the UN; By Larry Seward
NBC News: New Florida standards teach students that some Black people benefited from slavery because it taught useful skills; By Antonio Planas
The Florida Times-Union: Who is Dr. William B. Allen? He’s taking on Kamala Harris over Florida Black history curriculum; By Samantha Neely and C.A. Bridges
Equal Justice Initiative: White Mob Destroys Black Community of Rosewood, Florida
OPB: VP Harris says Florida’s new Black history curriculum replaces ‘history with lies;’ by Juliana Kim
Featured and Top Image by Sam Balye Courtesy of Unsplash
First Inset Image by Social History Archive Courtesy of Unsplash
Second Inset Image by Gage Skidmore Courtesy of Flickr – Creative Commons License
Third Inset Image by Lisa Ferdinando for U.S. Secretary of Defense Courtesy of Flickr – Creative Commons License