Florida Churches Challenge DeSantis by Teaching Comprehensive Black History Beyond State Curriculum

Black churches and congregations in Florida now offer versions of Black history education that do not follow state-imposed guidelines. This comes in response to recent changes in Florida’s educational curriculum for K-12 students, which has sparked controversy and criticism.

Changing Curriculum

Image Credit: Shutterstock /Evgenia Parajanian

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican and a 2024 presidential candidate, faced backlash after the Florida Department of Education (DOE) implemented alterations to the educational curriculum earlier this year. 

A Rejected Coure

Image Credit: Shutterstock /Juli Hansen

The changes made by the Florida DOE included the rejection of an AP African American Studies course.

Jeremy Redfern, press secretary to Governor DeSantis, had criticized the rejected course, stating, “It lacks historical accuracy” and “educational value.”

Controversial Curriculum Changes

Image Credit: Shutterstock /BlueSkyImage

One aspect of the new curriculum that has gotten significant attention is a statement, “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” 

Differing Opinions

Image Credit: Shutterstock /Juli Hansen

This statement that enslaved people received some “personal benefit” has gained the most criticism.

Vice President Kamala Harris labeled the statement “propaganda,” while Fox News’ Jesse Watters called it “historical fact.”

DeSantis Response

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Wirestock Creators

In a July press conference, DeSantis defended the new curriculum.

He said, “I think that they’re probably going to show some of the folks that eventually parlayed, you know, being a blacksmith, into doing things later in life.”

Pastors Taking the Lead

Image Credit: Shutterstock /Pressmaster

Black pastors in Florida have decided to take matters into their own hands by offering educational lessons on Black history, like Pastor Kenneth Johnson of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church.

Pastor Johnson

Image Credit: Shutterstock /Pressmaster

Pastor Johnson recently conducted an online lesson on the transatlantic slave trade, and similar lessons are planned for the future.

Pastor Kenneth Johnson stated, “We don’t need government approval to teach our history.”

Faith in Florida’s Initiative

Image Credit: Shutterstock / Monkey Business Images

Faith in Florida, a multicultural nonpartisan network of congregational community organizations, has been at the forefront of creating alternative educational resources for the African-American community.

Despite Slavery, Not Because

Image Credit: Shutterstock /fizkes

Faith in Florida’s network developed its curriculum and launched an online toolkit to help individuals better understand their history.

Linda Wiggins-Chavis, research and policy coordinator for Faith in Florida, emphasized, “People came to this country with skills, okay? And those people developed skills despite slavery, not because of slavery.”

A Call for Unfiltered History

Image Credit: Shutterstock /Mocha.VP

Black churches and organizations like Faith in Florida want to teach what they believe to be an honest version of history.

Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida, said they have a responsibility to teach history that is not “watered down” and reflects the true experiences of African Americans.

A Step Towards Formalization

Image Credit: Shutterstock / fizkes

Professor Davis Houck of Florida State University, an expert on the Black Freedom Movement, noted that while Black churches have historically taught Black American history, these efforts represent a move towards formalizing structured lesson plans and using primary historical sources.

Is Public School Failing

Image Credit: Shutterstock / TheVisualsYouNeed

Professor Davis Houck said, “If Black community leaders perceive their history is not being accurately taught, it stands to reason that they would do it themselves—mainly because their families have lived that history. On the other side of the ideological register, some white evangelicals are home-schooling their children or sending them to private schools for the same reasons, namely that the curricula in public schools, in their estimation, are failing.”

Community Concerns

Image Credit: Shutterstock /TZIDO SUN

Amidst these developments, teachers, students, community members, and Teamsters protested Florida’s enacted Black history standards and marched to Miami-Dade school board headquarters.

They claimed the new guidelines were “historically inaccurate, troubling, and deeply offensive.”

Public Response

Image Credit: Shutterstock /fizkes

Most people are siding with those fighting against the new guidelines, with one social media user commenting on the controversy, “Thank God for these folks, making sure their children know the truth instead of the DeSantis fairy tales.”

The post Florida Churches Challenge DeSantis by Teaching Comprehensive Black History Beyond State Curriculum  first appeared on Pulse of Pride

Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock /Leonard Zhukovsky. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.