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GOP congressman calls on Florida to 'correct' Black history standards on slavery

Aides to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis pushed back against Rep. Byron Donalds, who is backing Trump's presidential bid.
House Republican Conference at the Capitol Hill Club
Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., came under criticism from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' presidential campaign Wednesday after he pushed back against the state's new Black history standards. Tom Williams / CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., on Wednesday called on the state Education Department to "correct" its new standards for teaching Black history after it suggested that slaves benefited from skills used in forced labor.

"The new African-American standards in FL are good, robust, & accurate," Donalds tweeted. "That being said, the attempt to feature the personal benefits of slavery is wrong & needs to be adjusted. That obviously wasn’t the goal & I have faith that FLDOE will correct this."

The comments echoed remarks Donalds made in an interview with WINK-TV of Fort Myers, when he suggested the standards need "some adjustments."

Florida's Board of Education could work to "bring refinement," he said in the interview, to a benchmark on slavery that included teaching students that some Black people benefited from slavery because it taught them useful skills.

The Board of Education laid out the state's approach to Black history in a 216-page document that was approved last week.

Vice President Kamala Harris opposed the new standards in a last-minute trip to the state last week, suggesting that "extremist" leaders were trying to "push propaganda to our children."

Gov. Ron DeSantis has defended the new standards and has used how issues of race are discussed in the classroom as a part of his presidential campaign.

Asked about the standards, DeSantis suggested Friday that some slaves had "parlayed" skills used in forced labor "into doing things later in life" and said the standards were put together by scholars.

"It was not anything that was done politically," he told reporters.

DeSantis has also pushed back against Harris, accusing her of having gone down to Florida to "perpetuate a hoax."

"She's here to try to push a fake narrative about what Florida did," he said Tuesday in a Fox News interview.

In March, Donalds snubbed DeSantis when he joined other members of Florida's delegation in endorsing former President Donald Trump's 2024 presidential bid.

On Twitter, campaign aides were criticizing Donalds.

Reached for comment by NBC News, DeSantis' office referred to tweets by Florida's education commissioner, Manny Diaz Jr.

"The federal government won’t dictate Florida’s education standards," Diaz tweeted Wednesday.

"This new curriculum is based on truth," he added. "We will not back down from teaching our nation’s true history at the behest of a woke @WhiteHouse, nor at the behest of a supposedly conservative congressman."

DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern also tweeted that Donalds' office was repeating "false talking points" put out by the White House.

Christina Pushaw, the rapid response director, wrote in reply to Donalds’ tweet, "Did Kamala Harris write this tweet?"

Jason Miller, a campaign adviser to Trump, called Donalds a “conservative hero” in a statement Wednesday night.

“The Congressman also calls it like he sees it, and if he thinks something is BS, he’ll tell you. That’s why we like him so much,” Miller said, adding that any attempt by DeSantis’ campaign to “smear” Donalds was “a disgrace.”