Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) doubled down on his attacks on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis this week ahead of the Republican Party’s first presidential primary debate, saying that DeSantis is aligned with Vice President Kamala Harris when it comes to what is taught in Florida’s black history curriculum.
Harris flew down to Florida on a last minute trip in July to seize on one sentence from the 216-page curriculum that clarified how freed slaves used skills they learned and developed during slavery to help themselves later in their lives: “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
Harris used that line to claim, “In the state of Florida, they decided middle school students will be taught that enslaved people benefited from slavery.”
Scott said in an interview with Fox News this week that DeSantis and Harris “both signed off” on the “same curriculum.”
“All I’ve suggested is take the sentence out,” Scott said. “Anyone who suggests that the nation founded on freedom — talking about the one industry, slavery, that deprives African Americans of their freedom, is somehow going to defend any aspect of it whatsoever, it’s just wrong.”
He continued, “There was not a redeeming quality in slavery. For us to have that conversation at all in 2023 is the wrong direction for this nation, and it’s just an immoral, undeniably unethical industry that devastated black families, mutilated black people, and raped black women.”
The College Board included a similar item in its course framework for AP African American Studies for 2023-2024. The curriculum identifies as “essential knowledge”: “In addition to agricultural work, enslaved people learned specialized trades and worked as painters, carpenters, tailors, musicians, and healers in the North and South. Once free, African Americans used these skills to provide for themselves and others.”
Harris’ remarks generated strong pushback from a top black academic who helped create the curriculum.
However, some Republicans, including Scott and some black U.S. lawmakers who have endorsed former President Donald Trump for president, echoed Harris’ remarks last month to attack DeSantis.
“What slavery was really about was separating families, about mutilating humans, and even raping their wives. It was just devastating,” Scott said at the time. “So I would hope that every person in our country — and certainly running for president — would appreciate that.”
DeSantis responded to Scott: “Part of the reason our country has struggled is because D.C. Republicans all too often accept false narratives, accept lies that are perpetrated by the Left. And to accept the lie that Kamala Harris has been perpetrating even when that has been debunked, that’s not the way you do it. The way you lead is to fight back against the lies, is to speak the truth. So I’m here defending my state of Florida against false accusations and against lies. And we’re going to continue to speak the truth.”