Historians Trash DeSantis' Understanding of U.S. History—'Beyond Ignorance'
Ron DeSantis has been accused of mixing "fact and fiction" by leading historians over his comments about early U.S. history.
Speaking on Tuesday the Florida Governor claimed it was the "American revolution that caused people to question slavery."
He added: "Nobody had questioned it before we decided as Americans that we are endowered by our creator with inalienable rights and that we are all created equal. Then that birthed abolition movements."
DeSantis posted a nearly two-minute clip of his address on Twitter which was widely shared, attracting more than 900,000 views.
However, speaking to Newsweek four prominent American historians rejected his argument, with one branding it "completely incorrect."
Reacting to DeSantis's comments Professor Karin Wulf, who specializes in eighteenth-century British America 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, perhaps most obviously the 17th century English political philosopher John Locke. The United States as a government did not act against slavery in any form until 1807 (prohibition of the Atlantic slave trade) and acted in key ways to protect it right up to the Civil War (the fugitive slave act).
"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.
He commented: "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.“
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