“Florida Churches Defy State Curriculum, Offering Unfiltered Black History Lessons Amidst Controversy Over Governor DeSantis’ Education Policies.”

“Defying DeSantis’ Narrative: Florida Churches Break from State Curriculum to Offer Unfiltered Black History Education

Black churches and congregations in Florida have taken a bold step by offering alternative versions of Black history education that do not adhere to the state-imposed guidelines. This move comes in response to recent changes in Florida’s K-12 educational curriculum, which have stirred controversy and garnered criticism.

Curriculum Changes:
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican and a 2024 presidential candidate, faced a wave of backlash following alterations to the state’s educational curriculum earlier this year, implemented by the Florida Department of Education (DOE). Among these changes was the rejection of an Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course.

Jeremy Redfern, press secretary to Governor DeSantis, criticized the rejected course, claiming it “lacks historical accuracy” and “educational value.” However, one aspect of the new curriculum has drawn significant attention—a statement that reads, “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” This assertion that enslaved individuals may have received some “personal benefit” has been met with sharp criticism.

Vice President Kamala Harris labeled the statement as “propaganda,” while Jesse Watters of Fox News referred to it as “historical fact.” In a press conference in July, DeSantis defended the new curriculum, suggesting, “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.”

Taking Matters into Their Own Hands:
Black pastors in Florida have chosen to take matters into their own hands by offering educational lessons on Black history, exemplified by Pastor Kenneth Johnson of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. 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, a multicultural nonpartisan network of congregational community organizations, has been at the forefront of creating alternative educational resources for the African-American community.

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 Honest History:
Black churches and organizations like Faith in Florida aim to teach what they believe to be an honest version of history. Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida, asserts their responsibility to teach history that is not “watered down” and reflects the true experiences of African Americans.

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 toward formalized, structured lesson plans using primary historical sources. Professor Davis Houck commented, “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.”

Protests and Controversy:
Amidst these developments, teachers, students, community members, and Teamsters protested Florida’s implemented Black history standards and marched to the Miami-Dade school board headquarters. They asserted that the new guidelines were “historically inaccurate, troubling, and deeply offensive.”

The majority of public sentiment appears to be in favor of 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.”

As this educational debate continues to unfold, it underscores the importance of narratives in shaping historical understanding and the ongoing efforts to ensure a more inclusive and accurate portrayal of history in Florida’s classrooms.”

Why are Florida churches offering alternative Black history education?

Florida churches are providing alternative Black history education in response to recent changes in the state’s educational curriculum. These changes, implemented by the Florida Department of Education (DOE), have been met with controversy and criticism, with some believing that they do not accurately portray the history of African Americans.

What prompted the controversy surrounding Florida’s educational curriculum changes?

The controversy stemmed from alterations made to Florida’s K-12 educational curriculum, which included the rejection of an Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course. Additionally, a statement in the new curriculum suggesting that enslaved individuals received some “personal benefit” drew significant criticism and further fueled the debate.

How are Black churches in Florida responding to these curriculum changes?

Black churches in Florida, such as Pastor Kenneth Johnson of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, are responding by offering their own educational lessons on Black history. They believe that they do not need government approval to teach their history and are committed to providing what they consider to be an honest version of history.

What role has the organization “Faith in Florida” played in this educational debate?

“Faith in Florida,” a multicultural nonpartisan network of congregational community organizations, has been instrumental in creating alternative educational resources for the African-American community. They have developed their curriculum and launched an online toolkit to help individuals better understand their history.

How have teachers, students, and community members responded to Florida’s implemented Black history standards?

Teachers, students, community members, and Teamsters have protested against Florida’s enacted Black history standards, marching to the Miami-Dade school board headquarters. They assert that these guidelines are “historically inaccurate, troubling, and deeply offensive.” Many people support these protests, believing that the curriculum changes need to be reevaluated for a more accurate portrayal of history.

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