The Florida Board of Education, with the clear support of Gov. Ron DeSantis, has been at war with history. Gutting programs intended to teach about the United States' terrible history of racism and slavery, Florida's BoE wanted to turn the story around, and claim slaves were the beneficiaries of slavery. This old racist fable tries to justify the cruelty.
The collected oral histories of former slaves prove otherwise.
The stories document that skills were taught to the enslaved, but the Parish family is one of only two examples of someone who might have used those abilities to build a post-emancipation life.
Nearly all the oral histories abound with examples of inhumanity.
"The narratives provide students an opportunity to experience history at a personal level through the words of African Americans who spent their childhood and teenage years as the property of their owner, deprived of personal liberty and familial connection, and often physically abused," reads the University of South Florida's description of the collection, available online through their library.
Here are a few of the stories:
Margarett Nickerson spoke of skills that the enslaved learned other than picking crops on the Leon County plantation where she was held.
They could make rope for plow lines and turn cowhides into shoes for the hired farmhands and the enslaved. But the enslaved were punished for losing their shoes.
"He'd beat you," she said, adding that the dogs were treated better.
Some tried to escape and, when caught, were forced to wear a bell around their neck.
Read the more of the stories here.