No, Florida is NOT saying slavery was beneficial

Here’s an unpleasant truth: During the Holocaust, in the Nazi death camps, some Jewish prisoners used their skills to escape extermination, even as their brethren  were marched into gas chambers.

Vice President Kamala Harris (left), has her facts wrong, says Dr. William Allen
One example were Jewish musicians who played music, including their own compositions, to maintain a false calm in the camps.

Other Jewish prisoners were recruited to be Sonderkommandos to dispose of gas chamber victims. Jews aiding Nazis. An unpleasant truth. 

Here is another unpleasant truth — “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” That is one line out of a 216-page report titled, “Florida’s State Academic Standards – Social Studies, 2023.”

Yes, this is the manufactured-by-progressives controversy du jour.

Because words matter, please note two qualifications in that statement:  in some instances, which is not a majority; and could be applied to their benefit, which means in some cases, but not all. It does not say that slavery was beneficial. Anyone who says that is either illiterate, or lying. 

As with the Jews in the death camp, some slaves benefitted, yes, but they certainly were not free to refuse. 

The “benefit” line is one small point in the document detailing  how slavery will be taught in Florida schools.

The new curriculum was condemned by some, including Vice President Kamala Harris, for preaching that slavery was a good thing for enslaved Black Americans.

“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?” Harris asked. “Just yesterday in the state of Florida they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery.”

That is false. She ignored the qualifications I mentioned, because it was in her political interest to misrepresent what the plan says.

Read the first 21 pages that deal with slavery and you will see it does not in any way endorse, praise or excuse slavery. 

The slavery curriculum was developed by a 13-person task force, five or whom are African-American.

The Florida Department of Education  provided a statement from Dr. William Allen and Dr. Frances Presley Rice, who are members of Florida’s African American History Standards Workgroup. Each of them is Black.

The new standards were defended as “comprehensive and rigorous instruction on African American History. We proudly stand behind these African American History Standards,” the statement said.

“The intent of this particular benchmark clarification is to show that some slaves developed highly specialized trades from which they benefited. This is factual and well documented,” it added.

It’s “disappointing” that some detractors would devalue the research from the work group and reduce it to “a few isolated expressions without context,” the statement said.

In an interview with ABC, Dr. Allen said, “It never said slavery was beneficial to Africans.”

What the vice president said “was categorically false,” he said.

Dr. Allen is a descendent of American slaves, Vice President Harris is not.

The Left is going crazy with deranged statements and memes depicting Florida as celebrating slavery. 

Give it a moment’s thought and you know that can’t be true.

Really, it can’t. No rational person is going to claim slavery was good.

That is not what Florida plans to teach.

Some call slavery America’s original sin, and there is truth to that. It touches many people emotionally. But emotion can’t be allowed to overrule fact.

How to teach slavery can be vexing. How much of it can be honestly taught?

That some slave owners were sadists, murderers, and rapists? Without doubt, no controversy there.

That some owners allowed slaves to buy their freedom? Can we say that?

That some Blacks themselves owned slaves? That is an unpleasant truth.

That Black Africans were sold into slavery with the connivance of rival Black Africans?

That abolitionist John Brown was a treasonous insurrectionist. . .  or freedom fighter?  

History can be complicated, and more complex the deeper you delve into it.

There is rarely “one” truth, and it is impossible to tell everything about a subject in one sitting.

We have to be open to facts, even when they are unpleasant or challenge some of our most cherished beliefs.

And we must reject misrepresentations and lies. 

16 thoughts on “No, Florida is NOT saying slavery was beneficial”

  1. Does anyone think Harris or the WH cares about the facts? It’s all political.. Bravo to the dopey VP for finally sounding coherent as she reads off her prepared speech. Now that’s progress !!

    1. GQPers however, are always fonts of honesty and integrity who never play politics.

      1. Ah, satire, or is it irony? Coming from this seemingly miserable, Trump-hating, epitome of sanctimony. Har-dee-har-har.

  2. V.P. Harris did her job well when delivering her speech denouncing the curriculum. She is a politician and a lawyer, more so than a statesman. And politicians and lawyers never allow facts to get in their way.

  3. Who fact checks her stuff? Biden? As for the GOP being fonts of honesty and integrity, who writes your stuff? This wasn’t an attack on Party’s it was about a terrible speech that was should have been researched though any number of sources, all available from the Library of Congress. By any aide.

  4. The goals of slavery and the Holocaust were the exact opposite.

    One wanted strong, healthy workers. The other wanted all Jews dead.

    One trained “workers” to do a “job” they didn’t know and the other held back murder, at least temporarily, for people who already had a gift or skill.

    There is no comparison, other than both were rotten and criminal.

    For what grade level is that one inconvenient Florida fact you wrote about intended?

    Do you think, in 2023, students are being taught the same information on the birth of our country we learned way back?

    Absolutely not. These days, as the 250th anniversary approaches, there’s so much more to learn about the USA. Lots of new stuff arguably more relevant to today’s young Americans than the Panic of whatever year or years.

    In the classroom, some of the facts will be watered down to the gist of it while others will be ignored. It can’t all be taught. A schedule is a plan but not real life.

    Like complex critical race theory, anything “good” that could be said about slavery will be kept from all but the advanced learners in higher grades, with moral clarity already established.

    Nothing “good” about slavery (nor the Holocaust) is entry-level information for beginners with no previous understanding.

    Therefore, the inconvenient fact in the 200+ pages of standards will probably not be taught to the majority of Florida’s students.

    That gets me wondering, how do 49 other states plus DC teach slavery in America, and how has Florida done so for so long? I’d be working interested in learning.

    Finally, there’s a whole other element to this discussion since it’s about the one and only state of Florida.

    In the Sunshine State, absolutely no lessons can be taught to students about homosexuals, that they exist (and are not groomers) nor that they are a targeted minority in parts of the world including parts of the USA. Students are supposed to be taught that information at home, if the empowered parents ever feel the subject is appropriate. (Yeah, right. We know who most voted for last November.)

    And lest we forget Florida is also the state that suddenly had problems with The College Board and the Advanced Placement course.

    Oh, and it’s the state with the anti-woke law to protect students and full-grown employees from feeling bad about our country’s history, no matter how bad things were. They just can’t handle it in that one state.

    Put the details together and it’s clear these Florida changes, including its teaching standards on slavery, are for political reasons.

  5. You are equating truth with politics. I don’t care whether you’re the most wild eyed progressive on the left or the right wing nut job on the right, nor if you’re actually a relative moderate. You will never let facts get in the way of a good political jab.

  6. There is no way we, in 2023, can imagine how we would have acted in the long-gone ages we cannot comprehend through the lens of time. It is sad to read the posts above that immediately reduce the fair and evenhanded observations about slavery (again, seen through the lens of time) to tawdry politics.

  7. The movie ” Django Unchained” should be shown in Florida schools to show that slaves
    did learn some useful skills.

  8. well that was illuminating cuz i was at a dinner party on tues with Wanda bogart f freeze and judah( not literaly but you get the idea) and everybody was cluckcluckclucking about what desantis said and can you believe blah blah.My spidey sense called fake news the damage was done and this is what they believe and will spread.Truth dies in darkness.

  9. Well, I read the whole curriculum. Doubtless the assertion is true, in a way. “Benefit” strikes me as an odd word choice–beneficial in relation to what? Apparently avoiding the harsher conditions of fieldwork, and being more highly valued by the slave owner for the skills. It could have been phrased as “developed skills which, in some instances, allowed them to avoid the harsher treatment of other slaves.” Heck, Stu’s topic sentence did NOT read “During the Holocaust, in the Nazi death camps, some Jewish prisoners were able to benefit from the use of their skills” and leave it at that. (Maybe he’s just a better writer?)

    So, at best it seems a weird phrasing on the issue, if we exclude it from being an attempt to claim a “silver lining” to slavery.

    But there is more to it than that. First of all, it seems to be, and is defended as, a small and not particularly important point. So why does it have a “benchmark” section all to itself? It’s not exactly stunning news that house slaves had it better than field slaves, and not surprising that this would extend to slaves with a valuable skill. Wouldn’t this be covered as a natural matter in discussing the different tasks that slaves were forced to perform and the general conditions of slavery?

    But it is not. There is a whole other section on trades slaves performed: SS.912.AA.2.8 (p. 13 of the syllabus, available at “Examine the range and variety of specialized roles performed by slaves”–it has two benchmarks (trades practiced) and (locations worked).

    On the other hand, the “benefit” language gets it very own special section, and is the sole “benchmark” under the nearly identical topic. “SS.68.AA.2.3 Examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves” (p.6). To me this severely undercuts the idea that it is “one small point.” If it is intended as “one small point,” why isn’t it just benchmark no. 3 under the section on trades and locations? Carelessness? Bad organizational skills? Forgot to proofread it before it was issued?

    In fact, why need it be mentioned at all, when the conditions of slavery are going to be taught anyway? The syllabus does NOT have a “benchmark” for family separations, beatings, the meaning of the phrase we still have today of “being sold down the river” or as Stu says, that “some slave owners were sadists, murderers, and rapists.” Presumably, these details are included in the harsh conditions of slavery, so why wouldn’t one presume that how and on whom those conditions were mostly imposed wouldn’t be a natural part of the curriculum without spelling it out? Why need there be a special section on it? Reading it “in context” with the rest of the syllabus says that somebody thought it was an important point to call out with its own separate entry to ensure that it would be covered.

    Stu is correct that the statement was not false, although I think it was poorly phrased to make the point. I also think the use of “benefit” instead something more descriptive was intentional and that it was intentionally emphasized and explicitly mentioned for political reasons. Burying it somewhere would not do. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that it was intended to provoke the woke. That is DeSantis’ entire brand, and his hand-picked Workgroup would have been a failure if it hadn’t included SOMETHING that the woke would attack. If the syllabus was fine with the left, he’d just be peddling, or accused of peddling “Critical Race Theory” and he couldn’t have that. In fact, it contains a whole lot of stuff in common with, and is not radically different from studies programs that have been attacked as CRT.

    In any event, it’s now also been attacked by at least three black GOP elected politicians for the bad wording ( Tim Scott, Byron Donalds, and John James). For instance, Donalds said, “the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong [and] needs to be adjusted…” The way I read that objection, it is the same as mine–why is it “featured” i.e. a completely separate section instead of an unimportant aside? James objected that there was no “net benefit” to slavery–which I take to be my objection–because the way one generally understands a “benefit” is as a net good. Given the “benchmark”, teachers will now have to say that some slaves “benefited” (not “avoided harsher conditions” because that is not what the syllabus says) from their skills, and students will have to write it on tests. As Stu points out “words matter.” Emphasis matters as well.

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