Ron DeSantis, the Face of the Republican Push Against Black History Education, Drops Out of Presidential Race

The Florida governor came to prominence with the support of a base that balked against teaching America’s racial history.

Florida Gov. Ron Desantis, the Republican presidential candidate who was one of the most vocal voices against critical race theory and who has openly campaigned against diversity in education, ended his bid for the White House on Sunday (Jan. 21).

His exit from the race leaves former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley and former president Donald Trump as the leading candidates for the GOP nomination headed into the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday (Jan. 23). Trump has claimed a wide lead in the polls over Haley after his win in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 17, thus leaving DeSantis with no realistic route to competing with the former president in the weeks and months ahead.

In February 2023, DeSantis announced plans to halt diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as critical race theory, at Florida’s public universities and colleges. Conservatives embraced him in the months leading up to his campaign and accused college administrations of having a "woke" agenda. They even went as far as to accuse elementary schools of implementing a CRT-focused curriculum.

Florida Approves School Textbooks After Racial References Are Removed

In fact, as far back as 2021, DeSantis introduced the “Stop WOKE Act” designed to prevent the implementation of critical race theory in education, despite the fact that the concept is generally not taught outside of collegiate or law school environments. But conservative Republicans have claimed that CRT is anything that explores the history of systemic and institutionalized racism in America.

“In Florida, we will not let the far-left, woke agenda take over our schools and workplaces,” said DeSantis when signing the bill into law in 2022. The next year, he used his power to stop Advanced Placement African American History courses in high schools because they stood in violation of the new legislation. This move only frustrated scholars and other proponents who stand behind the notion of freely teaching Black history uncensored.

“AP African American Studies is not CRT. It’s not the 1619 Project. It is a mainstream, rigorously vetted academic approach to a vibrant field of study, one half a century old in the American academy and much older, of course, in historically Black colleges and universities,” Harvard professor Dr. Henry Louis Gates Jr. told

The developments were so concerning to African American leaders that the NAACP issued a warning against traveling to Florida, and at least two groups, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and the Black Nurses Association, decided against holding national conferences there.

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By the end of 2023, Republican leaders in Florida and other states openly scrutinized Black history curricula, forcing the College Board to introduce a revised framework that appeared to show a compromise. Topics on BLM and reparations are listed in the “Further Exploration” section as suggested issues for classroom discussion, which the board excludes from the AP exam. The College Board denied that DeSantis pressured them into the decision.

Having ended his bid for the presidency, DeSantis has now endorsed Trump. This is a somewhat surprising move since DeSantis once blasted Trump for not debating against him and Haley. Nonetheless, he posted an announcement of his campaign suspension, saying, “It’s clear to me that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance.”

DeSantis is term-limited and cannot run again for Florida governor in 2026, but his wife Casey DeSantis has emerged as an early front-runner for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the state, according to

A University of North Florida Public Opinion Research poll is the first choice for governor amongst 22% of respondents. She leads in every demographic except Black voters. While a DeSantis dynasty may be in Florida’s future, it’s unclear if the current governor will set his sights on a presidential run again in 2028.

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