Republican presidential candidate Senator Tim Scott expressed strong disapproval of Florida’s new Black history curriculum for middle schools. The curriculum has faced controversy for its inclusion of instruction on how “slaves developed skills” that “could be applied for their personal benefit.” Scott firmly stated, “There is no silver lining” in slavery, highlighting the immense suffering and cruelty endured by enslaved individuals.
Scott, the Senate’s sole Black Republican and a presidential contender for 2024, emphasized that slavery was about tearing families apart, inflicting mutilation, and subjecting individuals to sexual violence. He urged all citizens and especially those running for president to understand the gravity of this historical tragedy.
Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, Scott’s opponent in the presidential race and the proponent of the new curriculum, initially attempted to distance himself from the controversial standard, stating, “I didn’t do it. And I wasn’t involved in it.” However, his response did not go without criticism, including from another GOP presidential contender, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who deemed such words unfit for leadership.
Florida’s lone Black congressional representative, GOP Rep. Byron Donalds, cautiously criticized the curriculum’s inclusion of the “personal benefits of slavery” while praising the overall accuracy of the African-American standards. However, Donalds faced backlash from DeSantis’ campaign and state officials.
Vice President Kamala Harris also criticized the standards during a speech in Jacksonville, questioning any notion of “benefit” amidst the atrocities of slavery.
In defense of the curriculum, Manny Diaz Jr., Florida’s education commissioner, questioned Donalds’ conservatism and implied he was influenced by Democratic criticism.
DeSantis defended the curriculum by comparing it to language in an AP African American Studies course, which Florida initially rejected. The AP course framework acknowledges how enslaved individuals “learned specialized trades and worked as painters, carpenters, tailors, musicians, and healers in the North and South.” DeSantis argued that the new standards merely highlighted similar aspects.
As tensions rise over the curriculum, DeSantis accused Harris of trying to “demagogue” the issue, calling on his colleagues to support Florida and not align with the vice president.
The controversy surrounding Florida’s Black history curriculum continues to be a topic of debate, with both Senator Tim Scott and Governor Ron DeSantis firmly entrenched in their respective positions. As the 2024 presidential race heats up, this issue is likely to remain in the spotlight.