DeSantis Supports Florida’s New School Curriculum That Calls Slavery a ‘Benefit’ for Black Americans

By: Lauren Fokas | Published: Jun 15, 2024

Over the past couple of years, Florida, led by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, has passed several controversial pieces of legislation.

The most recent was approved on May 29, 2024, which states that Florida’s public schools will now teach a curriculum that claims Black Americans actually benefited from slavery.

Florida's Board of Education Approved New Social Studies Standards

On May 29, 2024, the Florida Board of Education announced that it had “elevated Florida’s nation-leading resiliency standards.”

Governor Ron DeSantis smiles with the Florida Board of Education after singing the education reform bill

Florida Department of Education

These new “standards” included several provisions, such as teaching the effects of social media, personal health, and substance abuse. But it also changed the language that will be used to teach students about slavery.

Florida Is Telling Its Students That African Americans Benefited from Slavery

The National Education Association reported that Florida’s new curriculum “say[s] that African Americans benefited from slavery.”

A diverse group of elementary students sitting on the floor, raising their hands enthusiastically to answer a question from a teacher not visible in the shot, in a colorful classroom

Source: CDC/Unsplash

Teachers will now be telling students grades K-12, that slavery actually led to skill development which was then used for personal benefit.

The Black Community in Florida Has Been Actively Protesting the New Legislation

For almost a year, since the new curriculum was introduced, Black Floridians have been protesting the offensive and inaccurate language.

Protestors in Florida against the state's education reform claiming slavery had benefits

Source: @WSVN-TV/YouTube

Many, including several of Florida’s Black elected officials, argue that implementing this sentiment in the official state syllabus will absolutely negatively impact its students and increase racism in America’s youth.

State Senator Geraldine Thompson Speaks Out Against the New Curriculum

One leader in particular, State Sen. Geraldine Thompson, has been one of the most vocal oppositions to the decision.

Florida State Senator Geraldine Thompson speaks out against the new Board of Education bill

Source: @GfSenator/X

Thompson said, “I’m just baffled because I provided the Department of Education with language that would be less inflammatory and less inaccurate than that statement. It is unbelievable.”

Sen. Thompson and Florida Protesters Were Ignored

Unfortunately for Thompson and the Black community of Florida, their complaints were utterly ignored by the Board of Education.

Florida protesters hold signs that reads "Slavery Had No Benefits"

Source: WPLG Local 10/YouTube

State Senator Shevrin Jones reported, “The fact that the Board of Education ignored the voices of Black Floridians and Black Americans when it came to us asking for a revision to that language is absolutely unfortunate.”


This Isn't the First Time Florida Has Alienated Communities

While Florida’s Black community is currently reeling with the most recent announcement, it wasn’t long ago that another community was shocked by the state’s insensitivity.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signing the nicknamed "Don't Say Gay Bill"

Source: @PBS NewsHour/YouTube

In 2022, the Sunshine State passed a bill that was nicknamed the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” The legislation stated that students and teachers  are prohibited from discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.


Florida Is Becoming Less Inclusive All the Time

Many Floridians feel as though their state is becoming less and less inclusive all the time.

A photograph of Florida's state capitol building

Source: Adobe Stock

And it’s not just members of the LGBTQ+ of Black community; there is an overwhelming concern among Sunshine State residents that their elected government is making a lot of grave errors in judgement.


Gov. DeSantis Supports the New Curriculum

Florida’s controversial Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, approved the new Board of Education curriculum himself.

Governor Ron DeSantis signing documents at his desk inside an office, with American and Florida state flags in the background

Source: GovRonDeSantis/X

When FOX News asked DeSantis in August 2023 why he was allowing such offensive and inaccurate language to be used, he defended the bill and the vocabulary wholeheartedly.


What Does Gov. DeSantis Have to Say About the New Florida Curriculum?

Gov. DeSantis said in a statement that teachers will now explain “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Governor Ron DeSantis gesturing while speaking at a public event, with a blurred school-themed backdrop

Source: Getty Images

He continued, “That particular passage wasn’t saying that slavery was a benefit. It was saying there was resourcefulness, and people acquired skills in spite of slavery, not because of it.”


Governor DeSantis Is Diving the Sunshine State

However, many argue that the sentiment in the new syllabus is not nearly as neutral as Gov. DeSantis claims it is.

Two different color boxing gloves showing division

Source: Freepik

FEA President Andrew Spar said, “Gov. DeSantis is pursuing a political agenda guaranteed to set good people against one another, and in the process, he’s cheating our kids. They deserve the full truth of American history, the good and the bad.”


Rewriting History Benefits No One

While the Florida Board of Education has yet to reply to the extensive backlash, they clearly fully understood long before they approved the new curriculum that millions of Floridians were extremely upset by it.

A group of diverse children hugging and smiling

Source: Freepik

The state’s decision to rewrite history and flat out ignore the true experience of enslaved Americans is detrimental not only to the Black community of Florida, but to the entire nation. Division and racism are ongoing problems, and legislation like this one only serve to intensify them.