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Clarence Page: Slavery has benefits, Gov. DeSantis? Only when it stops

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Standing his ground, even as it turns into political quicksand beneath his feet, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has dug in his heels to defend a barely defensible passage in his state’s new slavery education curriculum.

The GOP governor’s African American History Standards panel proposed a new social studies and African American curriculum plan that drew fire from critics across party lines for a single sentence.

The passage directed that, “Instruction includes how slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit.”

Uh, say what? Slavery had benefits?

Under closer examination, the awkwardly phrased declaration of “slavery benefits” begs for a rewrite. It would be controversial in any year for an aspiring presidential candidate — and especially as DeSantis is running a distant second place in polls to Donald Trump.

Curious for another perspective, I called a friend for whom the title of “founding father” has special meaning: Gayle Jessup White, a descendant of our country’s third president, Thomas Jefferson — and one of his younger slaves, Sally Hemings.

 

Studying her family genealogy led her to Jefferson and two families that were enslaved at Monticello, his Virginia estate on the edge of Charlottesville.

How does she feel about the notion that enslaved people found significant ways to benefit from their slavery?

“I think it’s insulting,” she said without hesitation.

Now head of public relations and community engagement at Monticello, the former newspaper and television news reporter and anchor described how most of the estimated four 4 million enslaved Americans in that period “worked for the complete benefit of their owners.”

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(c) 2023 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.

 

 

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