In response to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) actions to limit the teaching of Black history in the state’s public schools, Chicago-based publisher Haymarket Books is offering multiple e-books by progressive Black authors for students to download free of charge.
The company’s move comes as DeSantis’s Florida Department of Education (FDOE) recently blocked African American history courses developed by the College Board, who offer Advanced Placement (AP) classes to students across the U.S. The revised version of the course excludes lessons on the intersection between Black history and queer studies. It also removes mention of the reparations movement and adds “Black conservatism” as a topic of study.
Though FDOE wrote in a letter to the College Board last month that the original curriculum violated state law and “lacks educational value,” the College Board maintains that its revisions were not due to the agency’s refusal to allow the course to move forward in Florida.
However, DeSantis’s press secretary Bryan Griffin took credit for the revision to the coursework on DeSantis’s behalf.
“Thanks to @GovRonDeSantis’ principled stand for education over identity politics, the College Board will be revising the course for the entire nation,” Griffin said on Twitter.
The curriculum was developed to “offer high school students an evidence-based introduction to African American studies” through an “interdisciplinary course [that] reaches into a variety of fields…to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans,” the College Board said in its original description of the course.
In response to the actions by DeSantis and Republicans, Haymarket Books is making three e-books by Black authors — that would ordinarily be barred in Florida public schools — available for free to students everywhere.
“The racist governor of Florida continues to escalate his attacks on the freedom to learn and teach history,” the company said in a press release. “We at Haymarket stand in solidarity with all those in Florida and across the country who are organizing to resist.”
“We know that books can be dangerous to those in power, especially when they are in the hands of folks who are organizing to fight for liberation,” Haymarket Books added. “That’s why we publish them. That’s why they’re trying to ban them.”
The books that the company has made available include: “From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation,” by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor; “Black Lives Matter at School,” by Jesse Hagopian and Denisha Jones; and “1919,” by Eve L. Ewing.
The company added that it is also “connecting with folks in Florida directly to distribute radical books for free to young people.”
People across the country have condemned DeSantis and Republicans in Florida for limiting the lessons that educators in the state can teach on LGBTQ issues and Black history. In an op-ed for Truthout last month, author and historian Barbara Ransby described DeSantis’s actions as “proto-fascist.”
“His militant opposition to any teaching of the Black freedom struggle is also reminiscent of the South African apartheid regime’s book banning and curricular and speaker censorship, which limited the circulation of ideas that could undermine the legitimacy of an unjust system,” Ransby said, adding:
DeSantis’s actions are about intimidation, silencing potential dissident voices, preempting critical thinking from young people that might lead to informed political action, and flexing his muscle to silence voices that do not echo his own. But his actions are also racist.