(WASHINGTON) — The national NAACP Board of Directors has issued a formal advisory against traveling to Florida, alleging the state has become “hostile toward African Americans” under the leadership of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The move by the NAACP board calling on travelers nationwide to forgo visiting Florida comes as AAA Travel estimates 42.3 million Americans plan to hit the road this coming Memorial Day weekend.
The board voted unanimously to issue the travel advisory, saying the decision “comes in direct response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ aggressive attempts to erase Black history and to restrict diversity, equity, and inclusion programs in Florida schools.”
“Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals. Before traveling to Florida, please understand that the state of Florida devalues and marginalizes the contributions of, and the challenges faced by African Americans and other communities of color,” the advisory states.
Derrick Johnson, the NAACP president and CEO, accused DeSantis and other state leaders of a “dereliction of duty” and called the trend of failing to teach an “accurate representation of the horrors and inequalities that Black Americans have faced and continue to face” a disservice to Florida students.
“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, the state of Florida has become hostile to Black Americans and in direct conflict with the democratic ideals that our union was founded upon,” Johnson said in a statement. “He should know that democracy will prevail because its defenders are prepared to stand up and fight. We’re not backing down, and we encourage our allies to join us in the battle for the soul of our nation.”
The travel advisory was initially proposed in March by the NAACP’s Florida State Conference. At the time, DeSantis called the proposal “a pure stunt.”
“We get involved in these stupid fights,” DeSantis said in March. “This is a stunt to try and do that.”
Following the vote by the national NAACP Board of Directors on Saturday, Jeremy Redfern, DeSantis’ press secretary, issued a statement repeating the governor’s previous comment, saying, “This is a stunt.”
The NAACP’s travel advisory follows similar ones issued by the League of United Latin American Citizens, a Latino civil rights group, and Equality Florida, a gay rights advocacy group.
Florida’s economy heavily relies on tourism. An estimated 137.6 million people visited the state in 2022, the most ever, according to VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation. In 2021, tourism pumped $101.9 billion into the state’s economy, according to VISIT FLORIDA.
DeSantis, who won a second term as governor in November, is expected as early as this week to file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission declaring his candidacy for president in 2024, which would formally enter him in the race for the White House, two sources familiar with the plans told ABC News.
The governor and his administration recently rejected an AP African American studies course because it is “inexplicably contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value,” according to state officials. The DeSantis administration has also vowed to remove funding from diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in higher education, as well as certain lessons on race.
DeSantis also signed the so-called “Stop WOKE” Act into law in 2022, which restricts race-related curriculum and conversation in workplaces, schools and colleges. However, an appeals court has temporarily blocked the law from being implemented in colleges and universities.
Following DeSantis’ drive for the state to reject students’ access to AP African American studies courses in March, the NAACP distributed 10,000 books to 25 predominantly Black communities across the state in collaboration with the American Federation of Teachers’ Reading Opens the World program. The majority of the books donated were titles banned under state laws.
“Once again, hate-inspired state leaders have chosen to put politics over people. Governor Ron DeSantis and the state of Florida have engaged in a blatant war against principles of diversity and inclusion and rejected our shared identities to appeal to a dangerous, extremist minority,” Leon Russell, chair of the national NAACP Board of Directors, said in a statement.
Russell added, “We will not allow our rights and history to be held hostage for political grandstanding. The NAACP proudly fights against the malicious attacks in Florida, against Black Americans. I encourage my fellow Floridians to join in this fight to protect ourselves and our democracy.”
ABC News’ Kiara Alfonseca contributed to this report.
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