‘It’s the same standard:’ DeSantis admin fires back in debate over African American history

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — The DeSantis administration is returning fire after a full week of criticism aimed at Florida’s new African American history standards.

“Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”


That portion of Florida’s new African American history standards has been at the heart of criticism lobbed by groups like the Florida Education Association, the NAACP, and even the Vice President.

“How is it that anyone could suggest that in the midst of these atrocities, that there was any benefit to being subject to this level of dehumanization,” said Vice President Kamala Harris at an event in Jacksonville last week.

READ: Jacksonville state lawmaker issues cease-and-desist over criticism surrounding slavery comments

In a tweet posted by the Governor’s Communications Director, a comparison was drawn to the Advanced Placement African American studies course Florida rejected earlier this year.

Specifically, the tweet highlights an “essential knowledge” learning objective included in the College Board’s AP African American studies course framework.

It reads in part, “Enslaved people learned specialized trades” and once free, “Used these skills to provide for themselves and others.”

“It’s the same standard,” said Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. in an exclusive interview with Action News Jax.

Diaz noted the State of Florida was criticized back in January for rejecting the AP course by many of the same groups that now criticize the state’s new standards.

“Is the Vice President gonna come down and retract her statements after she was pushing for that same AP course and had a meltdown when it wasn’t accepted? Is the NAACP gonna remove their travel advisory that they put out when we rejected that same standard in the AP course for other reasons?” Diaz said.

READ: ‘I thank God for slavery:’ Florida African American History Task Force appointments raise concerns

Our requests for comment from the Vice President and NAACP went unanswered.

But Andrew Spar, President of the Florida Education Association, did weigh in.

He doesn’t agree the two components are equal.

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Spar argued the AP version includes more context, and makes the distinction between the enslaved and the free.

“They talk about how many who were enslaved actually had skills before they were enslaved,” Spar said.

Spar also noted the particular component at issue isn’t the only critique that’s been lobbed at the state’s new standards.

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There have also been questions regarding the depth of the standards in early grade levels and a component on acts of violence perpetrated ‘against and by African Americans’.

But Diaz argued as the curriculum is rolled out, the full story will be told.

“This standard is in there. It’s the truth. Not a benefit of slavery, but despite slavery that these individuals were able to preserve and acquire these skills,” said Diaz.

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