Kamala Harris’s dishonest attack on Florida’s history curriculum

Kamala Harris's dishonest attack on Florida's history curriculum

Vice President Kamala Harris ’s decision to pick a fight with Florida ’s history standards is quickly looking ill-advised. More and more, evidence is emerging that the object of Harris’s grievances is customary practice, including in the federal government she supposedly helps lead.

The actual controversy is a single line in the Sunshine State’s new academic standards for fifth-grade social studies. The standard asks teachers to “examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves (e.g., agricultural work, painting, carpentry, tailoring, domestic service, blacksmithing, transportation).”


Then comes the line that so offended Harris: “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Harris came out of the gate in a speech in Jacksonville, Florida, that ABC News described as “fiery.” Thundered the vice president: “How is it that anyone could suggest that amidst these atrocities [of slavery], there was any benefit to being subjected to this level of dehumanization?”

The standard was approved unanimously by Florida’s Board of Education but has been fiercely opposed by the Florida Education Association, a leftist teachers union.

Yet it turns out that Florida is hardly alone in teaching this curriculum. Advanced Placement African American Studies teaches pretty much the same thing. The social studies curriculum says students will learn how, “in addition to agriculture work, enslaved people learned specialized trades and worked as painters, carpenters, tailors, musicians, and healers in the North and South. Once free, African Americans used these skills to provide for themselves and others.”

The good folks at the College Board were apoplectic when Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R-FL) press secretary pointed this out . “Remember when Florida wouldn’t allow that AP African American Studies course because it focused too much on CRT and not enough on history, and the @WhiteHouse lost its mind? Well, here is one of the standards considered ‘essential knowledge,’” Jeremy Redfern wrote.

Redfern was referring to Florida’s war with the College Board earlier this year, when DeSantis told the publisher of the AP curriculum to change a very pro-Marxist Ethnic Studies, and the board caved.

And it isn’t just the College Board. The U.S. National Park Service curriculum also contains very similar wording. In its grades seven to nine section, the Park Service says, “Lesson Two – A House Slave: Acquiring Skills. Students analyze objects to determine what skills a house slave needed to complete assigned tasks. Students explore the potential marketability of these skills.”

The National Park Service was founded by President Woodrow Wilson as a bureau of the federal government. It falls within the Interior Department. All of this means that they are governed by President Joe Biden and … Vice President Kamala Harris.

Needless to say, conservatives are having a field day roasting a snake-bitten Harris. “Isn’t she in charge of the National Park Service?!!!” radio host Mark Levin gushed.

A suddenly terrified College Board meanwhile made things worse by telling CNN , “We resolutely disagree with the notion that enslavement was in any way a beneficial, productive, or useful experience for African Americans.”

But that’s just it. Nobody was praising the horrific, dehumanizing system of slavery. The writers of the AP curriculum, like those who wrote Florida’s, were clearly just trying to grapple with how men and women tried to survive its daily depredations.

Just listen to one of the people who wrote the Florida Standard, William Allen. Dr. Allen, a former chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and a member of Florida’s African American History Standards Workgroup, told ABC News that Harris is making a “categorically false” assessment.

“It was never said that slavery was beneficial to Africans,” he said.

In the rest of the interview — which ABC did not show, but Fox had — Allen added, ”What was said, and anyone who reads this will see this with clarity — it is the case that Africans proved resourceful, resilient and adaptive and were able to develop skills and aptitudes, which served to their benefit, both while enslaved and after enslavement.”

Alas, don’t expect such scholarly arguments from those who use race to divide the country.


Mike Gonzalez is a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation and the author of BLM: The Making of a New Marxist Revolution .