HISTORY

Why Florida is So Desperate to Hide This Speech From Students

The oppression of Black people and their resistance is taboo

Allison Wiltz
Published in
9 min readAug 30, 2023

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Henry Highland Garnet, albumen silver print, c.1881. Per the National Portrait Gallery | Public Domain

Resistance is not a dirty word, but if you try to teach students about Black Americans' efforts in resisting slavery, they may try to wash your mouth with soap. And that's because Florida's Department of Education has deemed these topics taboo. For instance, censors struck an African American Studies course from the official state curriculum, claiming that the course lacked "educational value and historical accuracy." While they did not identify any specific historical inaccuracies that should be corrected within the course materials, they did provide examples of the information they found problematic. For instance, Florida censors took issue with the inclusion of a political speech delivered by twenty-seven-year-old Henry Highland Garnet, a well-known newspaper editor and pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York, called "An Address to the Slaves of The United States."

At the National Negro Convention in 1843 in Buffalo, New York, free Black Americans gathered to promote ideas that, at the time, were considered radical — obtaining equal rights and abolishing slavery. Rising leaders such as Fredrick Douglas, Charles B. Ray, and Charles L. Remond were in attendance, along with seventy delegates from a dozen states. These conventions, which began during the 1830s in Philidelphia, "illustrate the immense struggles and the profound courage of those who made it a point to organize and stand for what was rightly theirs," according to the Colored Conventions Project. This annual meeting of the minds was instrumental for abolitionists, hoping to connect with people throughout the country who shared their goals. It's sad, but in America, few students learn about their efforts.

Why is Florida's Department of Education desperate to hide Garnet's speech from the classroom? Because the themes presented upend whitewashed historical narratives, they prefer students learn. For instance, Garnet described the creation of the Black-American diaspora.

“Two hundred and twenty seven years ago, the first of our injured race were brought to the shores of America. They came not with glad spirits to select their homes in the…

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Allison Wiltz
Momentum

Womanist Scholar bylines @ Momentum, Oprah Daily, ZORA, GEN, EIC of Cultured #WEOC Founder allisonthedailywriter.com https://ko-fi.com/allyfromnola