Dozens of teachers, students and labor leaders marched to a Miami school district headquarters Wednesday to protest Florida’s new standards for teaching Black history, which have come under intense criticism for what they say about slavery.
The protesters who marched to the School Board of Miami-Dade County objected to new curriculum standards that, among other things, require teachers to instruct middle school students that enslaved people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, has repeatedly defended the new language while insisting that his critics, including Vice President Kamala Harris and two leading Black Republicans in Congress, are intentionally misinterpreting one line of the sweeping curriculum.
“These new state standards that DeSantis has come up with will not be tolerated in our schools. We will not let our children be taught that slaves benefited from their slavery. That’s a lie,” said march organizer Marvin Dunn, a professor emeritus of psychology at Florida International University.
About 50 protesters who started the 1-mile (1.6-kilometer) trek from Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Miami’s historically Black Overtown neighborhood chanted, “What do we want? Truth. When do we want it? Now. What if we don’t get it? Shut it down!”
They were greeted by another 50 protesters at the school board building, where speakers addressed the crowd. Among them was Tennessee Rep. Justin Pearson who was propelled into the national spotlight after being expelled from the Republican-dominated legislative body for leading a gun control protest on the House floor. He was reinstated by local officials and then won a special election.
“The true history is that Black people have always fought to make America what it ought to be, and it has always resisted what it could be,” Pearson told the crowd. “We’ve always fought for the America that we know is possible. That is not here yet.”
Harris, the nation’s first Black vice president, traveled to Florida last month to condemn the curriculum. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, who is the chamber’s sole Black Republican and is also seeking the White House, issued a direct rebuke of DeSantis.
Critics said the new school standards are the latest in a series of attacks on Black history by the governor’s administration. At the beginning of the year, DeSantis’ administration blocked a new Advanced Placement course on African American studies from being taught in high schools, saying it was contrary to state law.
DeSantis also has pushed through the “ Stop WOKE Act,” a law that limits discussions on race in schools and by corporations, and banned state universities from using state or federal money for diversity programs.