Black churches have organized to educate the public about the history of Black people in the United States in a direct challenge to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ “watering down” of history for the state’s students.
The new state standards for teaching social studies, which were approved by the Florida Board of Education, have been criticized for downplaying the role of slavery and segregation in American history. The standards for the Black history curriculum also require students to learn “how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”
Black churches have rallied to fill the void left by the state’s whitewashed history curriculum. Many churches are offering Sunday school classes, Bible studies, and other programs that teach about Black history.
USA Today reports:
“Friendship Missionary is among the more than 200 mostly Black churches in Florida taking steps to teach Black history in part because of what faith leaders call the restricted and ‘watered-down’’ versions schools must teach under the state’s new policies. Instead, pastors equipped with a new Black history toolkit are teaching unfiltered lessons during Sunday school, Bible Study or as part of sermons.”
The toolkit, created by Faith in Florida, includes books, videos, and documentaries. Organizers emphasized that the toolkit is not a curriculum but a guide to resources that will continually be updated.
“We have a responsibility as a whole to make sure our history is not erased or watered down and that it be told. It happened. It’s history,” Rhonda Thomas, executive director of Faith in Florida, told USA Today.
These Florida churches’ efforts to teach Black history are part of a broader movement to challenge the whitewashing of history in schools. In recent years, there have been similar efforts in states like Texas and Tennessee.
According to Thomas, the executive director of Faith in Florida, leaders of mostly White churches have expressed interest in also using the toolkit. She told USA Today that she has received calls from religious leaders in Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and elsewhere.