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Leftists Don’t Want Florida Kids To Learn About These Former Slaves’ Self-Made Success Stories

Rushing to attack DeSantis, many have attacked history itself, pushing views that degrade the contributions of blacks in early America.

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The debate on teaching black history — and the role slavery played in it — is front and center in the state of Florida. While many on the left (and now the right) lambast Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and the state Department of Education for their new history curriculum standards — which teach that some former slaves leveraged skills gained during slavery for their own prosperity as free men — it is clear that real history is under threat of being lost.

American slavery was brutal, oppressive, and dehumanizing. It is a stain on our country’s history that continues to plague us today. Slavery is a grave wrong against humanity. However, we seem to lack consensus on how to teach this sensitive subject.

Despite how insensitive some may believe it to be, some slaves did learn skilled trades — and they did use these skills to secure their freedom. Some of these former slaves even went on to use these skills to buy freedom for their families and build successful businesses. This is not an opinion but a fact. 

For example, let us consider the stories of Free Frank McWorter, Henry Boyd, and Benjamin Thornton Montgomery. 

“Free” Frank McWorter was born a slave in South Carolina in 1777. McWorter worked odd jobs and side hustles in his spare time to save up money to buy his freedom. Once free, he leaned on the business skills he honed in negotiating with his former slaver on the frontier to make money. McWorter invested in real estate and commercial farming. As a free man, he amassed a small fortune, bought the freedom of his family members, and became the first black American to charter a new city inhabited by both black and white buyers. 

Similarly, Henry Boyd was born a slave in Kentucky in 1802. Boyd learned carpentry as a slave and used the skill to earn money to buy his freedom. Once free, he became a successful businessman and saved enough money to buy the freedom of his enslaved siblings. Boyd eventually started a furniture business, and his revolutionary steam-powered factory produced thousands of bed frames. Unfortunately, his success made him the frequent target of racist arsonists that seriously crippled his business over time. 

Born in Virginia in 1819, Benjamin Thornton Montgomery was trained to operate machinery, which he would later go on to design. He also acquired knowledge of land surveying and construction building as a slave. In 1842, Montgomery opened a retail store on the Hurricane Plantation that was so successful, he eventually bought the plantation holdings in October 1866. In the Reconstruction era, Montgomery was appointed justice of the peace, becoming one of the first black men and former slaves to hold public office in Mississippi.

Admittedly, this is by no means an exhaustive list of those who garnered skills as slaves and leveraged them for personal and familial benefit later in life. Historical records include numerous such accounts of black people accomplishing amazing things despite racism. Undoubtedly, some stories were never properly documented and may be lost to time. 

Yet these three stories highlight a more urgent concern — in a rush to attack Florida and DeSantis, many have unwittingly attacked history itself.

Partisan individuals and groups seeking to score political points are openly advocating for erasing history. Those blindly attacking Florida’s standards are purposely pushing the distorted idea that the state is planning to teach children that slavery was beneficial. This isn’t true, and such an endeavor would arguably be a violation of Florida state law.

These blind attacks are also exceptionally disrespectful, implying the black scholars who devised the education standards desired for students to believe slavery was somehow beneficial to those enslaved.

However, let’s consider the ramifications of refusing to teach the entire story of slavery. This refusal would feed into a nasty, flawed, and disgusting view of black American history that ultimately degrades the contributions of blacks in early American society. It’s hard to see how black Americans would be better served by such an erroneous approach. 

African American history is the story of a resilient people that persevered through even the most unimaginable and challenging circumstances — and that is exactly how it should be taught. 


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