College Board Speaks Out on Florida Slavery Lesson

Slavery was in no way 'a beneficial, productive, or useful experience for African Americans'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2023 8:48 AM CDT
College Board Speaks Out on Florida Slavery Lesson
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at the historic Ritz Theatre in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., Friday, July 21, 2023. Harris spoke out against the new standards adopted by the Florida State Board of Education in the teaching of Black history.   (Fran Ruchalski/The Florida Times-Union via AP)

The College Board has spoken out against Florida's new African American history standards, which have been strongly criticized for suggesting some Black people benefited from being enslaved. "We resolutely disagree with the notion that enslavement was in any way a beneficial, productive, or useful experience for African Americans," the board, which runs the Advanced Placement program, said in a statement to USA Today. "Unequivocally, slavery was an atrocity that cannot be justified by examples of African Americans' agency and resistance during their enslavement." The board rejected claims from Florida officials that the state standards echo language in the AP African American Studies class.

Board officials said that while the AP course, which Florida banned, discusses skills that "enslavers exploited as well as other skills developed in America that were valuable to their enslavers," it doesn't portray slavery as having beneficial aspects. Jamelle Bouie at the New York Times notes that the AP curriculum stresses that enslaved people couldn't use their skills "to provide for themselves and others" until they were free. "A large majority of the Africans enslaved in North America, whether under the British Crown for the better part of two centuries or under the American Constitution for eight decades after the revolution, died in bondage," he writes. "For them, there was no point after slavery where they could use their skills."

The AP curriculum also uses "enslaved" instead of "slave," Bouie writes. "You might say that these are minor, semantic differences. But in history the same ideas can be used to very different effect," he writes. "And it is exactly these questions of wording and emphasis that mark one of the differences between a modern, more truthful depiction of American slavery and an older, tendentious approach that either de-emphasized or ignored outright the basic injustice of human bondage in favor of a gloss that placed a more pleasant sheen on an otherwise horrific institution." Click for the full piece. NBC News reports that Sen. Tim Scott criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a fellow GOP presidential candidate, over the Florida standards Thursday, saying, "There is no silver lining ... in slavery." (More Florida stories.)

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