Baptists pledge sustained fight for truth-telling of Black history

Former state Sen. Tony Hill, Task Force Chair Rev. RB Holmes, Brevard School Board Member Jennifer Jenkins, Baptist Convention President Rev. and Mrs. Carl Johnson, Rev. James Wright, II, Elder James Morris, presiding Bishop CME Council of Churches. Jennifer Jenkins implemented a curriculum taught in Brevard County, telling the story of slain Florida civil rights champions Harry and Harriet T. Moore.

BY GINA JACKSON, Contributor

ORLANDO — The firestorm over the Florida Board of Education’s new standards for teaching Black history continued during the Florida General Baptist Convention, Congress of Christian Education in Orlando. The Chairman of the Task Force for Social Justice Ministry, Rev. Dr. RB Holmes, outlined the initiative “Teaching Our Own History.”

The furor erupted several weeks ago when the Florida Board of Education adopted new teaching standards for Black history. It was a stunning plan that erased the horrors of bondage and made it appear to be a means of teaching captors a trade.

Benchmark Clarifications

Clarification 1: Instruction includes the trades of slaves (e.g., musicians, healers, blacksmiths, carpenters, shoemakers, weavers, tailors, sawyers, hostlers, silversmiths, cobblers, wheelwrights, wigmakers, milliners, painters, coopers).

Clarification 2: Instruction includes the variety of locations slaves worked (e.g., homes, farms, onboard ships, shipbuilding industry).

The lengthy rewrites provoked outrage nationwide, and when Gov. Ron DeSantis was asked about it, he denied culpability, saying, “I didn’t make them do it!” But he appointed the members of the Board of Education. 

To that, the president of the General Baptist Convention, Rev. Dr. Carl Johnson, said, “Mr. Governor, if you sign something, it’s your decree. I believe you are a Christian man. We want to meet with you to talk about corrective action.”

Over the next several months, the task force will write and publish a corrective model and curriculum to teach Black history “that is authentic, accurate and factual.”

The group is comprised of a host of well-known and credentialed Black history scholars, clergy, and educators. According to faith leaders, the controversy has mobilized the Black community under siege by DeSantis, who frequently uses the slogan,” Florida is where “Woke” comes to die.”

According to Holmes, “Florida is not where Black history comes to die. The institution of slavery was not a benefit or a blessing. We will allow no one to rewrite or redefine our history.”

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