A gathering of Black elected officials, religious leaders, educators, and community members recently convened in Miami for a town hall meeting to voice their strong opposition to Florida’s newly implemented standards for teaching African-American history.
Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. was absent from the event, who had initially agreed to attend but ultimately chose not to, which fueled the critics’ concerns.
At the heart of the controversy are Florida’s Black history standards, which were approved by the state Board of Education the previous month.
These standards have garnered widespread criticism, igniting a heated debate over what should be taught to children and how. State education officials argue that the standards aim to provide a comprehensive view of American history and slavery, including both positive and negative aspects.
However, they have faced opposition from Florida’s largest teachers union and other groups. The national spotlight has also turned to this issue, with some Black conservatives expressing their disagreement with the standards.
The most prominent contention within these standards revolves around a requirement for middle school students to learn about “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their benefit.”
However, opponents have also raised objections to other sections of the standards. For example, they are concerned about how acts of violence “against and by” African Americans are categorized, such as the Ocoee Massacre of 1920, where a white mob destroyed Black homes and churches, resulting in the deaths of Black residents.
Critics argue that the wording suggests that violence may have been perpetrated “by” African Americans, which has sparked outrage.
The town hall meeting, hosted at the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Miami Gardens, was seen as an opportunity for the DeSantis administration to defend the standards. Still, Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. declined to attend.
Diaz’s absence drew strong criticism from attendees, with some labeling him a “coward” for avoiding the event.
During the meeting, various suggestions were put forward to address the issue and counter Florida’s conservative majority.
These included the formation of an education coalition to compete with local groups, encouraging educators to join unions, and urging the public to attend school board meetings to address concerns about the standards and other education-related issues.
The controversy over Florida’s Black history standards continues to intensify, with passionate voices demanding a more comprehensive and accurate portrayal of African-American history in the state’s curriculum.