Florida’s lone Black GOP congressman: Fix state’s controversial enslavement teachings

Rep. Byron Donalds tweeted "the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted." A fellow Black Republican, Sen. Tim Scott, also spoke out.

The sole Black Republican in Florida’s congressional delegation opposes the new history curriculum approved by the Florida Board of Education, which mandates teaching middle school students that Black people benefited personally from skills they acquired while enslaved.

On Wednesday, Florida Rep. Byron Donalds stated on X, formerly known as Twitter, that while his state’s new African American standards are “good, robust, & accurate… the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted,” ABC News reported.

He said he’s confident the state’s Department of Education will make amends.

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., speaks June 30 during the Moms for Liberty Joyful Warriors national summit in Philadelphia. Donalds, the sole Black Republican in Florida’s congressional delegation, is urging his state to fix the new history curriculum that mandates teaching that Black people benefited personally from skills they acquired while enslaved. (Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

The state’s Board of Education approved the controversial new Black history stands last week, along with “benchmark clarifications” that contained the statement that “instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Vice President Kamala Harris blasted the changes in a speech from Jacksonville, Florida, last Friday, saying, “They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it.”

Donalds’ claim was swiftly rebutted by some Florida government representatives and campaign staffers for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is running for president, demonstrating how the local debate has now spread to the Republican race.

DeSantis campaign spokeswoman Christina Pushaw, in response to Donalds’ tweeted critique, inquired whether “Kamala Harris wrote” it.

Manny Diaz Jr., Florida’s education commissioner, asserted that “the new curriculum is based on truth.”

“We will not back down from teaching our nation’s true history at the behest of a woke White House,” Diaz asserted on X, “nor at the behest of a supposedly conservative congressman.”

Donalds, one of the first representatives from Florida to declare support for Donald Trump’s presidential reelection earlier this year, defended himself against the attacks.

“What’s crazy to me is I expressed support for the vast majority of the new African American history standards and happened to oppose one sentence that seemed to dignify the skills gained by slaves as a result of their enslavement,” Donalds tweeted. “Anyone who can’t accurately interpret what I said is disingenuous and is desperately attempting to score political points. Just another reason why l’m proud to have endorsed President Donald J. Trump!”

​​The modifications to its history curriculum resulted from the Florida Legislature’s passing of DeSantis’ “Stop-WOKE” law, described as a measure that protects students and workers from experiencing “discrimination based on race, color, sex, or national origin.”

Donalds wasn’t alone in decrying the Sunshine State’s new educational adjustment. At a rally in Iowa on Thursday night, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone Black Republican running for president in 2024, spoke out against the Florida history requirements, telling a reporter, “There is no silver lining in slavery.”

He noted that what could be learned while enslaved also could have been learned living in freedom.

“Slavery was really about separating families, about mutilating humans and even raping their wives,” Scott added. “It was just devastating.”

DeSantis has supported the new rules while making it appear that he is trying to distance himself from them. When confronted with the language of the new benchmarks during a press conference in Salt Lake City last week, the governor claimed he “wasn’t involved.”

However, he said scholars created the new guidelines and are not politically motivated.

“But I think what they’re doing is, I think that they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed being a blacksmith into doing things later in life,” DeSantis said, ABC reported. “But the reality is, all of that is rooted in whatever is factual.”

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