Florida’s new Black history curriculum cites “personal benefits” of slavery

Florida’s 2023 Social Studies curriculum will include lessons on how “slaves developed skills” that could be used for “personal benefit,” according to a copy of the state’s academic standards reviewed by CBS News.

The lessons in question fall under the social studies curriculum’s African-American studies section, and be taught to students in sixth through eighth grade, according to the state standards.

The lessons for that grade level will include teachings on understanding the “causes, courses and consequences of the slave trade in the colonies,” and instruction on the differences and similarities between serfdom and slavery, the curriculum says. Students will also be asked to describe “the contact of European explorers with systematic slave trading in Africa” ​​and look at the history and evolution of slave codes.

The line about “personal benefits” is included as a “benchmark clarification” to a lesson that asks students to “examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves,” such as agricultural work, domestic service, blacksmithing and household tasks like tailoring and painting.

The curriculum was approved by Florida’s board of education on Wednesday.

Vice President Kamala Harris called the lesson plan an attempt to “gaslight” students.

“They insulted us in an attempt to gaslight us and we will not stand up for it,” she said said in a speech at Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc.’s national convention in Indiana on Thursday. “We who share a collective experience in knowing we must honor history in our duty in the context of legacy. There is so much at stake in this moment.”

On Friday afternoon, Harris tweeted that she was traveling to Jacksonville to “fight back” against “extremists in Florida who want to erase our full history and censor our truths.” According to CBS MiamiHarris is expected to “forcefully condemn” the curriculum.

Florida governor Ron DeSantis, a 2024 presidential hopefuldismissing Harris’ criticism of the curriculum.

“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. Florida stands in their way and we will continue to expose their agenda and their lies,” tweeted DeSantis, whose political platform has included statements against alleged “woke ideology“in schools.

Two members of the work group who established the curriculum standards said in a statement to CBS News that they “proudly stand behind” the language of the lessons.

“The intent of this particular benchmark clarification is to show that some slaves developed highly specialized trades from which they benefited. This is factual and well documented,” said Dr. William Allen and Dr. Frances Presley Rice, member of the group, before listing examples like Crispus Attucks and Booker T. Washington. “Any attempt to reduce slaves to just victims of oppression fails to recognize their strength, courage and resilience during a difficult time in American history. Florida students deserve to learn how slaves took advantage of whatever circumstances they were in to benefit themselves and the community of African descendants.”

Allen and Rice said that the curriculum provides “comprehensive and rigorous instruction on African American History.”

“It is disappointing, but nonetheless unsurprising, that critics would reduce months of work to create Florida’s first ever stand-alone strand of African American History Standards to a few isolated expressions without context,” the pair said.

Earlier this year, Florida rejected a proposed advanced placement course that would have focused on African American studies. DeSantis called the coursewhich included lessons on Black queer theory and the prison abolition movement, “indoctrination.”

“That is more of ideology being used under the guise of history,” DeSantis said in January 2023. “That’s what our standards for Black history are. It’s just cut and dried history. You learn all the basics, you learn about the great figures, and you know, I view it as American history. I don’t view it as separate history.”

The Florida Department of Education said in a letter to the College Board, which handles AP courses, that the curriculum was “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacking in educational value.” The College Board, which later posted a revised curriculum that did not include the areas DeSantis criticized, said the department’s comments were “slander.”

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