TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Dr. William B. Allen – who helped develop Florida’s new African American History curriculum – told ABC News on Sunday that Vice President Kamala Harris’ assessment of Florida’s new Black History curriculum is “categorically false.”
The former chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and member of Florida’s African American History Standards Workgroup – said the wording of the course should not be changed and critics should take the time to read it thoroughly.
DRAWING HEAVY CRITICISM
Florida’s Board of Education recently approved a new state social studies guidelines that contains a section on how “slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.” The new standards have drawn heavy criticism from across the nation.
In a recent speech, Vice President Harris condemned the move, arguing that “they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery. They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it.”
“RESOURCEFULNESS, RESILIENCE, AND ADAPTIVENESS”
“It was never said that slavery was beneficial to Africans,” Allen said in the interview. “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.”
Governor DeSantis’ press secretary Jeremy Redfern shared additional content from Allen’s interview with ABC that was not shown on air, emphasizing Allen’s response to Harris.
“Yesterday, @abcnews aired a very small section of their interview with a member of Florida’s African American History Standards Workgroup, Dr. William B. Allen,” Redfern wrote on Twitter. “Here’s more of the interview, where Dr. Allen debunks @VP’s narrative and calls her criticism ‘categorically false.’”
“The only criticism I’ve encountered so far is a single one that was articulated by the vice president and which was an error,” Allen said in the audio shared by Redfern. “As I stated in my response to the vice president, it was categorically false.”
CONTROVERSY AND CONFUSION
When ABC asked if the wording should be changed amid the controversy and confusion, Allen referred to his own ancestry and said it should not be changed.
“I do not. No. I think it would be effectively to erase people’s history,” Allen said. “Let me illustrate that for you, if I may.”
“My great-grandfather is someone who came from the islands and who was enslaved here and whose own resourcefulness, resilience, and adaptiveness was certainly instrumental in producing for his family, his descendants, the ability to prosper here in this country,” Allen said.
“Hence, from his resourcefulness, we derive benefits,” Allen added. “We’re talking about the experience of oppression and how people respond to the experience of oppression, and we want people to recognize that there’s an opposite to Stockholm Syndrome.”
“People don’t necessarily simply embrace their oppressors when they’re oppressed,” Allen explained. “They also react adaptively and they find ways to make pathways for themselves even in the presence of oppression,.”
“That’s what calls upon their resourcefulness, their resilience and their adaptability,” Allen said. “I just want to foster and encourage everyone to take the time to read, or as I said in my response to the vice president, I think every intellect can understand the language written there if people only take the time to read it.”
BLACK LEADERS PLAN DEMONSTRATION
In a meeting on Monday, black leaders said they are planning a “massive” demonstration in Florida against what they called “DeSantis’ attack on our freedoms.”
The group also encouraged Floridians to attend an August 26 march in Washington, D.C. to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech “I Have a Dream.”
“We’re not going to stand complacently by and allow this governor to dismantle our history,” said Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr. “He is not going to rewrite and redefine Black history – not while we’re still alive.”
“If we don’t bash this racist curriculum in the head like the snake, then I’m worried that it will manifest all across America,” said Benjamin Crump, an attorney who specializes in civil rights cases.
“You have sounded the alarm and we are answering the call,” Tallahassee Mayor Pro Tempore Dianne Williams-Cox told Governor DeSantis. “We are bringing everything that we have to make sure you and anyone else understand that black history is American history and it must be accurate and it must be factual.”