Florida Sparks Outrage Over DeSantis-Backed Curriculum Teaching Slavery Was a ‘Benefit’ to Black People

By: Georgia | Published: Jun 04, 2024

In Florida, the state’s K-12 curriculum will continue to include a statement that suggests Black slaves could personally benefit from skills developed during slavery. 

This decision comes after the Florida Board of Education approved the 2024 social studies standards on May 29. Critics, particularly within the Black community, argue that this perspective distorts historical truths and disrespects the experiences of enslaved individuals.

Opposition from Community Leaders

State Sen. Geraldine Thompson voiced strong opposition to the curriculum’s wording, particularly troubled by the portrayal of slavery.

Three people holding political campaign signs outdoors

Source: geraldinefl10/X

She said, “I’m just baffled because I provided the Department of Education with language that would be less inflammatory and less inaccurate than that statement. It is unbelievable.” 


Suggestions Ignored by the Board

Sen. Thompson expressed frustration over her suggestions being disregarded by the board. 

A woman speaking at a podium with a projection screen in the background

Source: geraldinefl10/X

She said, “What I suggested to them was apparently totally ignored,” indicating a disconnect between the educational authorities and the voices of Black leaders aiming to influence the curriculum’s content.

Broader Curriculum Updates Discussed

The curriculum update wasn’t limited to African American history; it included new curriculums for 9/11 Heroes’ Day and the history of Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

Classroom bulletin board decorated with a "We Are The World" theme.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

However, the changes to the African American history section have drawn the most controversy and discussion among the public and educators.

Educational Leadership's Perspective

Paul Burns, Chancellor for the Division of K-12 Public Schools, commented on the curriculum update, stating, “These new and revised standards will directly impact student achievement in Florida and will make sure that our teachers have the right standards to engage in high-quality instruction.” 

Classroom scene with students looking towards a teacher at the whiteboard

Source: Kenny Eliason/Unsplash

This statement was made in the context of broader curriculum changes across the state.

Ongoing Advocacy Against Curriculum Wording

For almost a year, Black communities in Florida, led by their elected officials and religious leaders, have been actively protesting against the inclusion of certain language in the curriculum. 

Two people sitting at a desk with computers in a classroom setting

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Their efforts are aimed at removing what they see as a misrepresentation of Black history and its impact on students.


Continuous Lobbying for Change

Despite ongoing efforts by community leaders to amend the controversial parts of the curriculum, their suggestions and protests have yet to result in changes.

Children in a classroom working at desks with tablets and notebooks, with a female teacher assisting

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This ongoing struggle highlights the challenges of influencing educational content at the state level.


Emotional and Educational Impact of Curriculum

The content of the curriculum has significant implications, both educationally and emotionally, for students and the larger Black community in Florida. 

Three students of diverse ethnicities studying together with books and notes in a library setting

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The debate over this curriculum content reflects broader discussions on how history is taught and whose histories are emphasized.


Awaiting Official Response

As the debate continues, a response from the Department of Education’s spokesperson is still pending. 

Young adults in a modern classroom setting, using laptops and smartphones for study

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The community awaits this response, hoping for a possible reconsideration of the curriculum content amid widespread criticism.


Historical Accuracy vs. Educational Policy

This situation illustrates the ongoing conflict between striving for historical accuracy and shaping state educational policies. 

students of diverse backgrounds sitting at desks with laptops and books in a classroom

Source: RDNE Stock project/Pexels

It raises important questions about the role of education in reflecting historical truths versus promoting particular narratives.


Ignored Voices Lead to Widespread Discontent

State Sen. Shevrin Jones captured the sentiments of many when he remarked, “The fact that the Board of Education ignored the voices of Black Floridians and Black Americans when it came to us asking for a revision to that language is absolutely unfortunate.”

A male teacher engaging with young students in a colorful elementary classroom

Source: ShevrinJones/X

This statement reflects the frustration felt by many in the community.


Future Steps Towards Educational Inclusivity

Looking ahead, there is a strong call from various community segments for the curriculum to better reflect accurate and inclusive historical narratives. 

Two students studying together in a library, surrounded by books and laptops

Source: Mikhail Nilov/Pexels

The goal is for future revisions to align more closely with the factual history of African Americans and to foster a comprehensive educational environment.