JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Vice President Kamala Harris denounced Florida’s newly adopted standards for teaching African American history in Jacksonville Friday.
Those standards were approved by the Florida Board of Education earlier this week.
Harris called those new standards an effort to “push propaganda on our children”.
A criticism she highlighted repeatedly referenced an instructional segment about skills slaves learned that “could be applied for their personal benefit.”
Harris touched down at JIA Friday afternoon and was greeted by Jacksonville Mayor Donna Deegan.
Deegan echoed the Vice President’s concerns.
“I think the first thing we gotta do is shine a light on it and that’s what I think the Vice President is doing today,” said Deegan.
Harris appeared in the historic Ritz Theater, a venue with a rich history and significance in local Black culture.
She decried new state laws restricting curriculum on LGBTQ issues and how race is discussed in the classroom.
“Extremists, so-called leaders, for months have dared to ban books. Book bans in this year of our lord 2023,” said Harris.
She called the state’s new standards for African American history “an attempt to insult and gaslight” citizens, and questioned how anyone could suggest slavery provided any benefit to the enslaved.
“That there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization,” said Harris.
It’s a characterization rejected by Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, who in an interview with Action News Jax Wednesday, argued the state’s new standards tell the whole story - good, bad, and ugly.
“You know, history sometimes is ugly. When it’s unvarnished and there are truths people don’t want to accept sometimes, but again, it’s all there,” said Diaz. “Our goal is to teach the students the truth, the facts, evidence-based, what happened. Let them come to their own conclusions, have healthy discussions, not try to varnish it one way or the other by the way.”
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Harris on the other hand argued Florida’s new standards amount to propaganda.
“An abject and purposeful and intentional policy to mislead our children,” said Harris.
Two workgroup members tasked with crafting the standards also pushed back on recent criticisms, issuing a joint statement Wednesday night.
“Any attempt to reduce slaves to just victims of oppression fails to recognize their strength, courage, and resiliency during a difficult time in American history,” said Dr. William Allen and Dr. Frances Presley Rice.