William Whipper, 1845. Painting by William Matthew Prior.

The Truth About Florida’s African American History Standards

All of the examples they gave were false.

William Whipper, 1845. Painting by William Matthew Prior.
William Whipper was never enslaved.

William Allen and Frances Presley Rice advocated for the language used in Florida’s new African American history instruction standards. They provided a list of Blacks who acquired skills during slavery that they then used for their future benefit.

You too can debunk their theory by doing just a little bit of reading. Some of the examples they gave included blacksmiths like Ned Cobb, Henry Blair, Lewis Latimer and John Henry; shoemakers like James Forten, Paul Cuffe and Betty Washington Lewis; fishing and shipping industry workers like Jupiter Hammon, John Chavis, William Whipper, and Crispus Attucks; tailors like Elizabeth Keckley, James Thomas, and Marietta Carter; and teachers like Betsey Stockton and Booker T. Washington.

It turns out all of the examples they gave were false. They included names of Blacks who were not enslaved, they misidentified the skills of some, and those who had actually been enslaved did not gain their skills while enslaved.

For instance, Booker T. Washington was born in 1856, nine years before emancipation. He was illiterate while enslaved. He taught himself to read after emancipation. Likewise, James Thomas was not a tailor, he was a barber. His freedom was purchased when he was 6 years old. He later became a real estate investor and one of the wealthiest men in Missouri. His success was not due to his first 6 years of life as a slave.

Chart showing skills not acquired during slavery.
The Blacks named did not acquire skills during slavery.

Allen and Rice are members of a new group, the African American History Workgroup, created by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. The group is comprised of numerous Black conservatives; Allen and Rice are both Republicans. Sadly, it appears that they are complicit in taking away our children’s right to a quality education.

The Florida Commissioner of Education’s African American History Task Force, created in 1994, was not asked to provide input on the new standards created by the African American History Workgroup. Although the Black educators and community leaders on the African American History Task Force should have, by law, reviewed the standards, they were purposefully left out of the process. They are rightfully outraged.

Students in Florida and many other Republican-controlled states are going to be cheated. Whether it is by bans on what can be taught, book bans, or plain old revisionist history, children will receive an incomplete education. Who would want that for their child?

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