‘You’re gonna tell the whole story:’ Sharpton targets DeSantis over Black studies course

Rally protested rejection of AP African American Studies course framework

Civil rights leader Al Sharpton speaks at a rally for AP African American Studies in Florida. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida’s rejection of an African American studies course continued to draw criticism Wednesday, as Black lawmakers, religious leaders and civil-rights leader Al Sharpton led a march to the Capitol.

Sharpton, a longtime activist who heads the National Action Network, focused heavily on denouncing Gov. Ron DeSantis.

“If you would study history, governor, you would have known that to mess with us in education always ends to your defeat,” Sharpton said to a crowd gathered outside the Capitol.

Sharpton also called for a voter drive to oppose the governor, who was re-elected by a wide margin in November.

“You’re gonna tell the whole story. You are not going to give no part-time story to our story. Our children need to know the whole story, not to only know how bad you were, but to know how strong they are,” Sharpton said.

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Hundreds of people marched several blocks from Bethel Missionary Baptist Church to the Capitol for a rally.

The march and rally came after the state Department of Education last month informed the College Board that an Advanced Placement African American Studies course would not be offered in Florida classrooms unless changes were made. Advanced Placement courses are college-level classes offered to high-school students.

The department cited several topics that were planned for inclusion in the course, including “Black queer studies” and “the reparations movement,” as reasons for the rejection.

The College Board on Feb. 1 released an updated course framework that essentially was scrubbed of topics and literary works that drew the education department’s concerns.

The Department of Education, however, has not accepted the revised course. Cassie Palelis, press secretary for the department, told The News Service of Florida in an email Wednesday that the College Board “still has not submitted their official framework to the department for review.”

Meanwhile, a feud between the College Board and the DeSantis administration has been intensifying. The College Board in a statement Saturday said the organization regrets “not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander,” while DeSantis on Monday accused the organization of putting “neo-Marxism into the proposed syllabus” of the course.

The governor this week also suggested that Florida could completely sever ties with the College Board, which develops Advanced Placement courses and creates the SAT test that evaluates prospective college students on reading, math, writing and language.

“Does it have to be done by the College Board, or can we utilize some of these other providers, who I think have a really, really strong track record? I don’t think anyone should be concerned about somehow our high school students not having an opportunity for that. They absolutely will. It’s just a matter of what is the best way to do it,” DeSantis said during an appearance in Jacksonville.

Democrats have objected to the suggestion of shifting away from the College Board’s services. House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, accused DeSantis of retaliating against the College Board after it pushed back against his administration.

“You see, that’s the rub with this guy (DeSantis) and I don’t want you to miss this — if you dare to speak out against him, he will come after you. That’s his M.O. He wants us to be intimidated and afraid. And we cannot be intimidated or afraid,” Driskell told the crowd during Wednesday’s rally.

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About the Author:

Ryan Dailey is a reporter with experience in print and radio, having covered state and local news in Tallahassee since 2014. A graduate of Florida State University, Dailey has been a resident of the capital city since 2012. He joined the News Service of Florida in 2021, reporting with a focus on education and education policy.