There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.
BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian (1:1)
That “simple and basic truth” is critical to understanding the essential nature and present-day reality of this country. But in the U.S. today, the right of students to learn about slavery, white supremacy, and other essential truths about the history of this country is under ferocious nationwide assault by the Republi-fascists. The latest such attack is a ban on a high school Advanced Placement (AP) course in Black history by Florida Governor DeSantis.
The course was prepared by the College Board. The College Board is not some radical institution but the group that runs the SAT tests for high school students applying to college. It develops materials to help prepare students for that test and other college admission requirements. The AP course on Black history was tested in 60 schools in the fall of 2022 and will be offered nationwide starting in the 2024-25 school year. It is described by the Board as a multidisciplinary study of the African American diaspora that includes literature, the arts, science, politics and geography.
DeSantis’s Department of Education banned the course on the basis that “the content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value.” The assertion that this course, which introduces students of all races and nationalities to major events, thinkers, and experiences of Black people in America, “lacks educational value” exhibits and promotes obscene, dehumanizing contempt for Black people.
While no specific law is cited in the ban, Florida’s so-called Stop WOKE (Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees) Act that went into effect last year prohibits any instruction that could make someone feel “personal responsibility” for historic wrongdoings because of their race, sex or national origin. DeSantis had declared that the Stop WOKE Act was “taking a stand against the state-sanctioned racism that is critical race theory.”
In fact, “state-sanctioned racism”—white supremacy—is being enforced through this law and the ban on the AP Black history course.
DeSantis, like other Republi-fascists, has targeted “critical race theory” (CRT), a framework originally developed in law schools for explaining the persistence of racial inequality even when the laws appear to be equal. As the Revolution series1 in fall 2021 on the fascist, white-supremacist suppression of teaching of historical truths in schools pointed out, “Most of these Republican fascists don’t know anything about CRT, but they are using it as a catch-all buzzword to incite and inflame white resentment, and suppress any discussion about systemic racism against Black people and other people of color. In fact, they flip things completely upside down and claim that simply acknowledging the history and reality of anti-Black racism is divisive and racist against white people!”
In response to the ban by DeSantis, a former Florida high school teacher tweeted, “I taught African-American History for three years in FL to mostly white students. No theory, no CRT, just simple historical facts. Got the same reaction from every class - 'Wow, we didn't learn any of that stuff in US History.’”
The Fight Against the White Supremacist Whitewash and Fascist Suppression of Historical Truth
As the Revolution series noted (we urge readers to check out the whole series), the Republi-fascists
aim to force teachers to teach a false version of American history—where the foundational role of slavery and genocide is erased, or whitewashed and justified once again, and the big lie of American “greatness” is shoved down everyone’s throat. And this time the erasure and whitewash has the force of law and the power of the state behind it.
Republican fascist politicians and media like Fox News have whipped their “base” into a frenzy to stop schools from teaching “critical race theory”—a catch-all buzzword for any discussion of the actual history and reality of systemic racism against Black people and other people of color—which they claim is “divisive” and racist against white people. Twenty-eight states have proposed, and seven have already passed, dangerous anti-critical race theory (CRT) laws to control what can and can’t be taught about U.S. history and racism. White supremacist mobs are swarming school board meetings trying to oust school board members and get teachers fired. Educators have been driven out, and students censored. All this is already having a chilling effect and is likely to intensify when school starts in the fall and these laws go into effect.
Since that series was published, the fascist assault on truth in education has escalated. The UCLA School of Law CRT Forward Tracking Project reported last August that nearly 500 measures to ban the teaching of CRT in schools have been proposed, passed or adopted in 49 states.2
The attacks on the teaching of Black history come at a time when U.S. society is being ripped apart from top to bottom, with white supremacy as a critical faultline. This is a time when two futures confront humanity, as Bob Avakian (BA) has analyzed in Something Terrible, Or Something Truly Emancipating: Profound Crisis, Deepening Divisions, The Looming Possibility Of Civil War—And The Revolution That Is Urgently Needed, A Necessary Foundation, A Basic Roadmap For This Revolution.
If you want a glimpse of part of what the terrible future could mean, look squarely at the massive assault on the teaching of one of the most defining truths about the history and present-day reality of this country built on genocide and slavery.
But as also pointed out in BA’s work, this heightened time of crisis can be a time of possibility for the emergence, growth and eventual contestation for power by a movement for revolution—depending on what the revolutionaries do today. And one thing revolutionaries must do in this period is defending those courageous students and teachers who defy the book banners and bullies in places like Florida, Texas, and everywhere else these fascists show their fangs, as part of bringing people forward to revolution.