In Florida’s new African American history standards, the section covering race massacres tells teachers to instruct students about acts of violence “against and by African Americans.”
That both-sides approach drew outrage at a town hall in Orlando.
Critics of the new standards, like U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, have also pointed out a lesson that says enslaved workers benefited by learning useful skills.
The meeting Saturday, at the Dr. James R. Smith Neighborhood Center, was organized by Democratic State Sen. Geraldine Thompson and attended by U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost, D-Orlando.
It opened with the with hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the Black national anthem. Its second verse includes the line: “We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.”
Two descendants of victims of the Ocoee and Rosewood massacres spoke out against the new standards.
Tampa-area pastor Stephen Nunn is a great-grandson of Ocoee’s July Perry, who was lynched in the 1920 Election Day killings by a white mob that started after a Black man tried to vote.
“Not just black students, not just Black people,” Nunn said, “but all students and all people deserve nothing less than truth, they deserve to understand justice and the equality of our ancestors, of the blood sweat and tears that were shed yesterday and that have brought us to where we are today.”
Three students from Edgewater High School also joined the town hall to speak against those standards for teaching African American history.
Senior Luke Hall says they are not just watered down, they’re “poisoned.”
“I use the term poisoning instead of watering down because, instead of narrowing the information that we’re getting, it’s instead spreading misinformation. And that’s a huge problem,” Hall said in an interview after his speech.
Also at the meeting, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said the group is working on a legal challenge.
In a July 31 letter defending the standards and inviting Harris to discuss them, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, said the state is “committed to teaching truth, not partisan narratives.”
DeSantis stressed elements of the Stop WOKE Act, saying Florida has eliminated diversity, equity and inclusion intiatives and rooted out so-called “Critical Race Theory,” which is a graduate-level academic framework that has become a conservative catch phrase for the study of systemic racism.
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