Vice President Harris targets Florida's Black history curriculum, rejects debate over new standards

Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Orlando on Tuesday to deliver remarks at the African Methodist Episcopal 20th Women's Missionary Society Quadrennial Convention.

The event, being held at the Orange County Convention Center from July 25 to August 3, has drawn over 3,000 delegates from nearly 40 countries representing the nation's oldest African American protestant denomination. The Orlando visit is part of the vice president's summer travel itinerary that includes meeting with key voters throughout the U.S. and is the second visit to Florida by the vice president in as many weeks. 

Harris was in Jacksonville last month just days after the Florida Board of Education approved a revised Black history curriculum to satisfy legislation signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate who has accused public schools of liberal indoctrination. 

Harris has attacked claims that Florida's new standards include instruction that enslaved people benefited from skills that they learned, something DeSantis has called a "fake narrative."  The governor sent a letter to the vice president on Monday, offering to meet with her in Florida to discuss the new education standards amid her criticisms. 

"Our state pushed forward nation-leading standalone African American History standards – one of the only states in the nation to require this level of learning about such an important subject," the governor wrote Monday evening in his letter to Harris. "One would think the White House would applaud such boldness in teaching the unique and important story of African American History. But you have instead attempted to score cheap political points and label Florida parents 'extremists.' It's past time to set the record straight."

Vice President Kamala Harris arrives at Orlando International Airport ahead of attending the 20th Quadrennial Convention of the Women's Missionary Society of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. The gathering at the Or

The vice president has flatly rejected any such discussion on the state's new curriculum saying it is a strategy to "divide and distract our nation."


"They attempt to legitimize these unnecessary debates with a proposal that most recently came in of a politically motivated roundtable. Well, I'm here in Florida, and I will tell you there is no roundtable, no lecture, no invitation we will accept to debate an undeniable fact: there were no redeeming qualities of slavery," she told convention goers in Orlando to thunderous applause. "As I said last week when I was again here in Florida, we will not stop calling out and fighting back against extremist, so-called leaders, who try to prevent our children from learning our true and full history."

Some in attendance at the convention center Tuesday felt the vice president’s response to the governor was the highlight of the address.

"She definitely said what we were all thinking," said Emily Anderson, a member of the Women’s Missionary Society who traveled from Washington, D.C. to see the Vice President speak. "This is not African American history, but it is American history."

"I’m just so happy I was able to attend this conference. And I’m emotional about it!" exclaimed Deneen Williams, another member of the Women’s Missionary Society. "Governor DeSantis wants to take books from our children. We need to give them books, we need to talk about our history. Some of our youngsters do not know their history."

FOX 35 News reached out to Gov. DeSantis’ office to see if he has any response for the vice president. We’re still waiting to hear back.

Next week, Harris will travel to Chicago to speak at an Everytown for Gun Safety event on August 11. 

FOX 35's Marie Edinger contributed to this report.