A clip of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis misconstruing facts surrounding the history of slavery, abolition and the American Revolution has gone viral online in recent days. At the time, he argued that it was the "American revolution that caused people to question slavery."
Here's a look at the remarks in question from DeSantis at a speaking event Tuesday, September 20th:
'DeSantis clearly has not done the reading for class': Historians weigh in on FL governor's remarks | RawStory.TV'DeSantis clearly has not done the reading for class': Historians weigh in on FL governor's remarks | RawStory.T
The Republican governor tried to downplay a lawsuit over his oppressive "Stop WOKE Act," a law designed to restrict educators’ ability to teach about American social ills. DeSantis has criticized teachers in his state who have sought to educate students on facts about racial and gender inequality.
After making his speech, DeSantis posted a portion of it via Twitter and it quickly surpassed 900,000 views. However, it also attracted heavy criticism. Speaking to Newsweek, historians weighed in with critical assessments of the Florida governor's remarks.
Professor Karin Wulf, who focuses on the study of eighteenth-century British American history at Brown University, said, "On at least three levels this is wrong. The idea of natural rights didn't originate with the American revolutionaries; they were reflecting ideas that were widespread among political thinkers…Most egregiously, the idea that 'no one' questioned slavery erases enslaved people themselves who were active in resisting slavery both as individuals and collectively and in refusing the logic and legality of their enslavement."
Seth Rockman, an associate professor at Brown who has written extensively about the economics of slavery, accused DeSantis of ignoring Black Americans as part of a strategy linked with white nationalism.
Rockman said, "DeSantis clearly has not done the reading for class, but his error here goes beyond ignorance of the last several decades of research on anti-slavery thinking and organizing over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. What DeSantis does here is more pernicious because it places Black people outside the category of 'we' and 'Americans'— a move that can only be understood as part of DeSantis's strategy to ride white nationalism to higher office."
"This statement is yet another deliberate DeSantis move to 'trigger' or 'own the libs,' but let's think about the implications of DeSantis's statement here: When DeSantis says 'no one' he pretends that enslaved African and African-descended people aren't worth taking seriously as people whose opinions about slavery might matter, then or now. The slaves who staged massive revolts in New York, South Carolina, and other mainland colonies throughout the colonial era, were they not questioning slavery?"
Professor Sarah Pearsall also explained why she disagrees with DeSantis' claims. "The claim by DeSantis is completely incorrect. Plenty of people had questioned slavery before the American Revolution. Of course enslaved people had resisted the system since its inception, but there were also tracts by colonists, such as Samuel Sewell's The Selling of Joseph, published in Boston in 1700, which argued that the institution was unacceptable."
"Early abolitionists on both sides of the Atlantic included Quakers; their efforts in some cases predated the outbreak of the American Revolution. Since DeSantis also states of history that 'It's gotta be accurate,' he might want to practice what he preaches."