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Eatonville residents criticize efforts to limit how Black history is taught in Florida


Florida's Education Department approved a new social studies curriculum, which Vice President Kamala Harris alleged makes slavery seem positive. N.Y. Nathiri is in the middle of this. She leads the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community. Eatonville, Fla., is considered the first U.S. town to be established by formerly enslaved people. Nathiri spoke with Michel Martin.


You're leading an organization dedicated to preserving the town's history. Could you just describe a little bit about why you think that's so meaningful?

N Y NATHIRI: It's so important that all of us know as much about the full story of the American saga. And it's very clear that over the generations, significant portions have not been included in what you might call the canon.

MARTIN: I assume that you've been watching with interest these efforts by state officials in Florida to limit, to change how Black history is taught in schools. How has this struck you?

NATHIRI: I think that I share the view of some historians who talk about what happened with the Reconstruction period and how there was an aggressive effort to retell, to reshape the story of the Civil War. There's an effort to try to get around what is actual fact so that if you can't refute what is fact, then you try to erase what is fact from easy public square.

MARTIN: It's interesting that some of these initiatives that the governor and his allies in the legislature have touted are intended to - they say they don't want white children to feel bad.

NATHIRI: All I can say is this - that the responsibility of each generation is to do the best that it can. What can you do? The history is the history. I mean, this is actually what happened. This is the latest assault. But I don't think that we should be wringing our hands in despair and woe is me, and what are we going to do? What we're going to do is to do what we have done historically, and that is to make sure that the true record, the factual record is actually available through other agencies.

MARTIN: Does it make you feel like your history is being erased in some way?

NATHIRI: No, absolutely not. You just have to stand. You have to stand up. You have to stand up. No one can erase you unless you allow that.

MARTÍNEZ: N.Y. Nathiri is the executive director of the Association to Preserve the Eatonville Community. She spoke with Michel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.