Florida’s history curriculum mirrors 'generations' of white Christian nationalist doctrine: author
Citing Florida's new education curriculum, in a Sept. 1 op-ed published by Religion News Service, Clemson University professor of religion Elizabeth Jemison argues that "All of us — parents, voters, educators and citizens at large — must commit to learning more about our nation's history ourselves and pushing for our schools to teach truthful histories to school children."
After the Civil War, white Christians in the South refashioned the theology that had justified slavery into the Lost Cause. They recast defeated Confederates as noble patriots, while depicting African Americans as too immature to carry out the duties of citizenship. They used faith to suggest that the natural order had been upset. In 1876, the Rev. Benjamin Palmer, a Presbyterian minister in New Orleans, wrote that 'involuntary servitude' was God's way of protecting society from 'the monotony of equality.'
"Florida's new history standards echoes these lies, teaching children debunked ideas such as the notion that enslaved people benefited from their lot," she argues, "But these false ideas have garnered widespread approval for generations."
"Claiming to support 'parental rights' and wishing to 'build great families,' Jemison writes, "the state's Board of Education approved a new K-12 social studies curriculum that suggests that slavery had 'personal benefit' for enslaved people and crediting white men primarily with liberating them."
The author of Christian Citizens: Reading the Bible in Black and White in the PostemancipationSouth emphasizes, "History education has long been a target of white Christian nationalists inside and outside schools, and schools have long been instruments for those intent on shaping our ideas about American identity and solidifying white Christian power in a country that is no longer majority white and Christian."
Florida's new guidelines also remove African Americans from history. Middle school students will learn about 'figures who strove to abolish the institution of slavery' — all of whom are white men. The Reconstruction figures whom the curriculum highlights are all white men, with the lone exception of Frederick Douglass. Naming white leaders as the most important people shaping African American freedom and self-determination undermines not only the vibrant history of Black communities, but their very fight for autonomy.
Jemison's full op-ed is available at this link.
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