U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds against DeSantis administration over Black history standards

Southwest Florida's U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds

Southwest Florida’s GOP Congressman Byron Donalds, the only Black Republican member of Florida’s congressional delegation, took to social media Wednesday over newly adopted teaching standards that will have Florida middle school students learning some African Americans benefited from slavery.

Donalds, who has publicly endorsed Donald Trump, posted to his professional X account in a tweet on Wednesday that while the new African American history standards in Florida are good, robust and accurate “the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted.”

“That obviously wasn’t the goal & I have faith that FLDOE (Florida Department of Education) will correct this,” Donalds said in his tweet.

It’s not just Donalds who has spoken out against the new standards. Democrats and civil rights leaders have condemned Florida and the DeSantis administration, hinting that they may sue the state. Last week Vice President Kamala Harris visited Jacksonville to speak out against Florida’s education officials.

What part is controversial?

The controversy is over two sections in the 19 pages of the Black history benchmarks under standards for middle school students.

The standards state that Black Americans benefited in some way from being enslaved, specifically that while working jobs during enslavement, they developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit. And once free, “African Americans used these skills to provide for themselves and others.”

Standards are different from a curriculum. Standards are a guide for what benchmarks the state said students should reach.

These new standards are a response to the Individual Freedom Act, also known as the Stop Woke Act, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that bars instruction that makes someone feel guilt or psychological anguish over their race.

What was the reaction to Donald’s tweet?

Manny Diaz Jr., Florida Department of Education Commissioner, took to X Wednesday and said the federal government won’t dictate Florida’s education standards.

“We will not back down from teaching our nation’s true history at the behest of a woke @WhiteHouse, nor at the behest of a supposedly conservative congressman,” Diaz Jr. said in his tweet.

Jeremy Redfern, press secretary for DeSantis, also posted a tweet against Donalds stating “supposed conservatives in the federal government are pushing the same false narrative that originated from the @WhiteHouse.”

Meanwhile, late Wednesday night former president Donald Trump’s top advisor Jason Miller posted to social media calling Donalds a “conservative hero” and chastised Desantis’ office and presidential campaign for attempting to “smear” Donalds.

“The Congressman also calls it like he sees it, and if he thinks something is BS he’ll tell you,” Miller said in his tweet.

What are the rest of the standards?

Elementary: Asks students to recognize and identify African Americans who have had a positive influence in art, invention, politics and military. One standard focuses on Black leaders who have made positive contributions to Florida.

Fifth grade: Students begin to learn about slavery, recognize and identify African Americans from early Florida and westward expansion.

Middle School: Learn about slave trade, early slave revolts, jobs performed by enslaved people, congressional legislation surrounding slavery. This is where the controversial language of “personal benefit” is found.

High School: The most in depth, comprised of 14 pages. Discuss slavery as a practice before American colonies, African resistance to slavery, notable African figures and groups and white figures who opposed slavery, violence against and by African Americans.

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