AP African American Studies course shrinks in scope after outcry

Many Black scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism have been removed—along with Black Lives Matter—from the official curriculum, The New York Times reported.

A narrower AP African American Studies program is now available to schools after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s efforts to cancel the course led the College Board to pare some controversial topics from the curriculum.

Several schools had been piloting AP African American Studies for more than a year as the College Board and its content experts fine-tuned the curriculum. This process was occurring largely under the radar until late January when DeSantis and Florida’s Department of Education barred AP African-American Studies from being offered in the state’s classrooms.

DeSantis administration officials rejected AP African-American Studies because they believed it “lacks educational value,” is historically inaccurate, and veers into critical race theory in violation of Florida’s controversial Stop WOKE Act, the National Review reported last month. DeSantis led the charge against CRT and diversity programs that conservatives claimed sought to make white students feel guilty and ashamed over the actions of past generations.

AP African American Studies is designed to be an interdisciplinary course that spans history, literature, the arts, geography, science, and other subjects to guide students in exploring the contributions and experiences of African Americans. It begins with ancient African kingdoms and “traces a path from slavery to freedom,” focusing on the American Revolution, the Civil War, Reconstruction, the rise and fall of Jim Crow segregation, and the civil rights movement, said renowned professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

“Never before have high school students had the opportunity to engage with African American history and culture in such depth and coherence,” Gates added.

Compared to the pilot version, however, the breadth of AP African American Studies has been reduced for the final version though course developers “added a small number of topics to address important subjects that were not adequately represented in the pilot version,” the College Board said Wednesday.

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“This course is an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture,” David Coleman, CEO of the College Board, said in a statement. “No one is excluded from this course: the Black artists and inventors whose achievements have come to light; the Black women and men, including gay Americans, who played pivotal roles in the civil rights movement; and people of faith from all backgrounds who contributed to the antislavery and civil rights causes. Everyone is seen.”

However, many Black scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience, and Black feminism have been removed from the official curriculum, The New York Times reported. The College Board also scrubbed Black Lives Matter from the curriculum and added “Black conservatism” as a potential research topic, the Times says.

More than 300 African American Studies professors collaborated with high school teachers on the AP course’s curriculum. Its designers called its interdisciplinary structure a “breakthrough” for AP courses. “By drawing not only on history but also the arts and social sciences, the course explores how African American culture has shaped our country for centuries,” said Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Victor S. Thomas Professor of History and of African and African American Studies at Harvard University. “High school students and their teachers, as well as college faculty, have long been looking forward to this course.”

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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