On Thursday, at a conference for the Black sorority Delta Sigma Theta, Harris condemned the updated education standards as “revisionist history”.
“Just yesterday in the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery,” the vice-president said. “They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us and we will not stand for it.”
Advocacy groups have denounced the Florida curriculum changes for providing a sanitized version of history.
No, that’s not what the new Florida Black History guidelines actually say. There is not a repetition of the old claim that Blacks, by being now Chrsitians in the US, were better off than unchristians in benighted Africa. Sure, it’s possible to claim at the extreme that some were – being a slave on a cotton plantation (less so a sugar one) might well be a better life outcome than being ceremonially eviscerated outside the court of the King of Dahomey.
But that isn’t the claim made. Rather, from the source:
Examine the various duties and trades performed by slaves (e.g., agricultural
work, painting, carpentry, tailoring, domestic service, blacksmithing,
Clarification 1: Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be
applied for their personal benefit.
Some slaves with such skills were indeed allowed to sell their labour for their own benefit. As under Roman slave codes of course.
Personally I think they were a bit silly putting this in there because it would so obviosuly be picked up on to try to discredit the entire syllabus. But there we are.
I also think that they would have found something to use to try to discredit that syllabus. Because it actually tries to get slavery right, which is against that current insistence that chattel slavery was uniquely American, a founding institution, or even a defining feature. Slavery lasted longer in the South than in many other places, true. But other than that it was pretty much business as usual. Which the syllabus trie to point out:
6-8 African American History Strand
SS.68.AA.1 Understand the causes, courses and consequences of the slave trade in
Identify Afro-Eurasian trade routes and methods prior to the development of
the Atlantic slave trade.
Clarification 1: Instruction includes how slavery was utilized in Asian, European and African cultures.
Clarification 2: Instruction includes the similarities and differences between serfdom and slavery.
Clarification 3: Instruction includes the use of maps to identify trade routes.
Describe the contact of European explorers with systematic slave trading in
Examine the evolution of the labor force in the use of indentured servitude
Clarification 1: Instruction includes the comparative treatment of indentured servants of European and
Clarification 2: Instruction includes the transition from an indentured to a slave-based economy.
SS.68.AA.1.4 Describe the history and evolution of slave codes.
Clarification 1: Instruction includes judicial and legislative actions concerning slavery.
Analyze slave revolts that happened in early colonial America and how
political leaders reacted (e.g., 1712 revolt in New York City, Stono Rebellion
Examine the service and sacrifice of African patriots during the Revolutionary
Era (e.g., Crispus Attucks, Peter Salem, James Armistead Lafayette, 1st
Rhode Island Regiment).
That’s all pretty good (as is much of the rest of it in fact) but it’s against eh disctates of 1619 and so on. Therefore the whole thing must be attacked on whatever pretext.
Now, myself, I’d insist on telling the story of Anthony Johnson. A slave bought in Angola, freed into a indenture contract on arrival in 1621 (? date is not wholly known) and by late 1630s free, with own land and own indentured labourers. One of whom, a black from Afcia, he sued in order to keep for life. That’s the conversion from indenture to chattel lavery, right there in that case.
So, chattel slavery of blacks (he did not try that one with any white indentured) was invented by, first imposed by, an African ex-slave upon Africans. That is, an African practice imposed by an African upon Africans.
Now wouldn’t telling everybody that – true story – really put the cat amongst the pigeons?
But no. The new Florida history guide does not say that slaves benefitted from slavery. Read it for yourself.