Here’s who is behind Florida’s new Black history education standards

ORLANDO, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis defended the Florida Department of Education approving the new African American history standards Wednesday in a speech to a crowd of legislators in Orlando.

DeSantis called out Vice President Kamala Harris and other critics he says are creating a hoax about the standards.


He said the standards are “honest history” and were created by a work group he called “African American history scholars.”

The state Department of Education and DeSantis have come under fire for the standards, particularly the line that reads, “instruction includes how slaves developed skills, which in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Read: Task Force members say they were not asked for input on Black History standards

Channel 9 reported Tuesday that we received a list of the 13-member work group from the African American History Task Force.

We confirmed 12 of the 13 members of the standards work group. We reached out to each of them to find out more about their qualifications and how they created these standards.

Of those 12, we found all are or were educators. At least five members are black, six are white, and one is Hispanic.

Read: Florida Board of Education approves new African American history standards despite opposition

The members include a former chairman of the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, Dr. William Allen. Previously, he was a political science professor at Michigan State University. Another member is Frances Presley Rice, who on her LinkedIn, says she is an independent consultant that provides advice about the production of African American history documentaries. She also served as a chair for the National Black Republican Association.

The other members include curriculum coordinators for school districts and high school history teachers, including at least three in Central Florida.

They include Allison Elledge, a history teacher at Flagler Palm Coast High School; Valencia Robinson, a teacher in Volusia County; and Helen Maffett, a teacher for Polk County Schools. We reached out to all three. None wanted to comment.

Read: ‘It’s an injustice’: Leaders speak out over changes to Florida’s Black history teaching standards

Work group members:

  • Dr. William B Allen
  • Allison Elledge
  • Frances Presley Rice
  • Valencia Robinson
  • Laura Wynn
  • Roberto Fernandez III
  • Helen Maffett
  • LaFrance “Joe” Clarke Jr.
  • Jessica Morey
  • Kathleen Ems
  • Madonna Higgs
  • Kay Pape
  • Constance Scott

Work group members Allen and Rice defended the standards saying they created the standards using a “methodical process” and adding that “any attempt to reduce slaves to just victims of oppression fail to recognize their strength, courage, and resiliency during a difficult time in American history.”

Back to our original question of those work group members, which work group member first came up with the language relating to slaves developing skills that could be used for their personal benefit?

We asked the state Department of Education. They didn’t respond.

We’ve also filed a records request for all the minutes for the work group to hopefully answer that question.

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