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Civil rights leaders line up against DeSantis after slavery curriculum flap

TALLAHASSEE — Civil rights activists cheered when Ron DeSantis pardoned four Black men wrongfully convicted of rape as one of his first actions as Florida’s governor. But four years later, as DeSantis eyes the presidency, their hope that the Republican would be an ally on racial justice has long faded.

Instead, African American leaders decry what they call a pattern of “policy violence” against people of color imposed by the DeSantis administration that reached a low point after the recent release of an “anti-woke” public school curriculum on Black history. Specifically, Florida’s teachers are now required to instruct middle-school students that enslaved people “developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

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DeSantis has repeatedly defended the new language while insisting that his critics, who include Vice President Kamala Harris and two leading Black Republicans in Congress, are intentionally misinterpreting one line of the sweeping curriculum. Civil rights leaders who have watched DeSantis closely dismiss such explanations.

“DeSantis has perfected the art of using policy violence that we must stop,” said Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the NAACP. His organization issued a travel advisory for Florida in May warning African Americans against DeSantis’ “aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.”

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