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White House

Kamala Harris to travel to Florida and speak out against state's new Black history standards

The standards, approved Wednesday, teach students that some Black people benefited from slavery because it provided them with useful skills.
US Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a meeting with civil rights leaders and consumer protection experts to discuss the societal impact of artificial intelligence, in the Eisenhower Executive Office building in Washington, DC, on July 12, 2023.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office building in Washington on July 12.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images file

Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to travel to Florida on Friday to deliver critical remarks in response to the state Board of Education's approval of new standards for how Black history will be taught in schools.

The trip to Jacksonville will highlight efforts to "protect fundamental freedoms, specifically, the freedom to learn and teach America’s full and true history," a White House official said in an announcement first shared with NBC News.

Harris, whose mother was a civil rights activist, will also meet with parents, educators, civil rights leaders and elected officials, the official said. Her last trip to Florida was in April.

In remarks Thursday, Harris blasted efforts in some states to ban books and “push forward revisionist history.”

“Just yesterday in the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery,” she said at a convention for the traditionally Black sorority Delta Sigma Theta Inc. “They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us, and we will not stand for it.”

The Florida Board of Education approved new standards Wednesday in a 216-page document detailing how public schools should approach Black history, including teaching students that some Black people benefited from slavery because it taught them useful skills that could be used for their “personal benefit.”

Changes to the curriculum were required by a 2022 law known as the “Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act,” or “Stop WOKE Act,” NBC South Florida reported.

The new framework has been sharply criticized by the Florida Education Association, a statewide teachers’ union representing about 150,000 teachers, as a “step backward.”

William Allen and Frances Presley Rice, who are members of Florida’s African American History Standards Workgroup, defended the new standards in a statement, calling them “rigorous and comprehensive” and saying they aimed to show “that some slaves developed highly specialized trades from which they benefitted.”

The topic of voting rights, gun violence and women’s choices about their own bodies, will also be addressed during Harris’ visit, the White House official said.

Harris has played a more prominent role in recent months in the administration’s efforts to cast gun safety measures and abortion protections as a bid to protect fundamental freedoms.

In April, she traveled to Nashville after state GOP lawmakers ousted two Black Democratic legislators, who have since been reinstated, for protesting against gun violence on the chamber floor.