What Critics Are Missing When Attacking Florida Guidelines for Black History
What’s more important than discussing the benefits of slavery
For the record, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida isn't wrong when he describes Florida's Black History curriculum as comprehensive and more inclusive than most other states. The Florida State Academic Standards for Social Studies 2023 provides an in-depth outline that includes far more than I expected. I cross-checked for the things I imagined I'd find missing; the Black Codes, the Slave Codes, the Black Panther Party, the Rosewood Massacre, and Malcolm X. They were all there. Nowhere to be seen, though, were the Compromise of 1877 and the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which effectively ended Reconstruction and ushered in Jim Crow. There was no mention of Partus Sequitur Ventrum, which dictated that every child born to an enslaved woman was also a slave and that their fathers’ had no responsibility.
The line is there about enslaved people receiving benefits from their training. "Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit." That line has been widely criticized for the underlying assumptions that the enslaved possessed no worthwhile skills when they arrived and that slavery was a net plus for which Black people should be thankful. There's been a considerable back and forth about skills that Black people did possess but couldn't generally use freely without white permission due to the aforementioned Black Codes and Jim Crow. I submit the worst parts of Florida's guidelines have been missed entirely.
What they include is just as bad as what they leave out.
The guideline refers multiple times to "natural reproduction," which many historians have called "natural increase." Natural reproduction tries to explain the statistical growth in the number of enslaved people in America, especially when compared to other slave populations in the West Indies and South America. In those places, often more slaves died than were born due to the harsh conditions of their enslavement.
The enslaved of America faced many of the same conditions; malnutrition…