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Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Florida on Friday, where she addressed the state board of education’s approval of controversial new standards for Black history in public schools, which includes harmful guidelines that state people benefited from being enslaved.
Harris, whose mother was a civil rights activist, was in Jacksonville to highlight ways to “protect fundamental freedoms, specifically, the freedom to learn and teach America’s full and true history”, NBC previously reported, citing a White House official. The vice president also had plans to meet with parents, educators, civil rights leaders and elected officials.
Earlier this week, Florida’s Board of Education unanimously approved new rules in a 216-page document for teaching Black history, including new clarifications added to the 6th-8th grade African American History Strand guidelines that require teachers to describe the “various duties and trades” performed by enslaved people. The clarification reframes the forced labor of Black people in America, stating, “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
In her speech, the vice president condemned the new educational framework. “Adults know what slavery really involved. It involved rape. It involved torture. It involved taking a baby from their mother,” she said. “So in the context of that, how is it that anyone could suggest that in the midst of these atrocities, that there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization?”
“They want to replace history with lies,” the vice president continued. “These extremist, so-called leaders should model what we know to be the correct and right approach if we really are invested in the well being of our children. Instead, they dare to push propaganda to our children. This is the United States of America. We’re not supposed to do that.”
Sharing her own educational experience, Harris said she attended a public school system where teachers provided the “full expanse of information,” encouraging students to “then reach their own conclusions and exercise critical thought in a way that was directly intended to nurture their leadership.”
“It is because of that approach that I stand before you as vice president of the United States,” she said.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), wrote, “Today’s actions by the Florida state government are an attempt to bring our country back to a 19th-century America where Black life was not valued, nor our rights protected.
“Our children deserve nothing less than truth, justice and the equity our ancestors shed blood, sweat and tears for.”