Last week Kamala Harris made this scurrilous accusation about the history school curriculum in Florida: “Middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery.”
It’s gone viral and Democrats around the country are now regularly reciting the line that Florida is downplaying slavery.
Charles Cook of National Review has done the best job refuting it. There is one line in the curriculum that says “Examine how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” This is certainly an inartful and even insulting way to describe something that is truthful.
However, this is ONE line from a list of 191 items dealing with the evils of slavery in the Florida Handbook. Here is just a small sample, and let us know if you think these hint at racism or apologize for slavery:
- Instruction includes what life was like for the earliest slaves and the emancipated in North America.
- Examine the Underground Railroad and how former slaves partnered with other free people and groups in assisting those escaping from slavery.
- Examine key figures and events in abolitionist movements.
- Instruction will include the Emancipation Proclamation, 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
- Examine the roles and contributions of significant African Americans during westward expansion (e.g., Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, James Beckwourth, Buffalo Soldiers, York [American explorer]).
- Examine the experiences and contributions of African Americans in early Florida.
- Instruction includes African American communities (e.g., Fort Mose, Angola Community, Black Seminoles, Fort Gadsden, Lincolnville, Eatonville).
- Describe the history and evolution of slave codes.
- Instruction includes judicial and legislative actions concerning slavery.
- Analyze slave revolts that happened in early colonial America and how political leaders reacted (e.g., 1712 revolt in New York City, Stono Rebellion ).
- Evaluate the Abolitionist Movement and its leaders and how they contributed in different ways to eliminate slavery.
The list goes on and on and you can judge for yourself whether this sounds like a curriculum written by slavery apologists.
William Allen, who is black, is the former chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and is a member of the working group that developed Florida’s curriculum. He says Harris used “a categorically false” assessment of the program.
“It was never said that slavery was beneficial to Africans,” he told ABC News in an interview. “Africans proved resourceful, resilient and adaptive and were able to develop skills and aptitudes which served to their benefit, both while enslaved and after enslavement….My great-grandfather is someone who came from the islands and who was enslaved here and whose own resourcefulness, resilience, and adaptiveness was certainly instrumental in producing for his family, his descendants, the ability to prosper here in this country….People find ways to make pathways for themselves even in the presence of oppression.”
As for Harris, Allen encouraged her to read first and criticize later: “In my response to the vice president, I think every intellect can understand the language written there if people only take the time to read it,” he said. “It’s only those who don’t take the time to read it who will misstate it.”