You, like many, may not have heard of the new AP course on African American Studies. The College Board describes it as an “interdisciplinary” course that dives into “literature, the arts and humanities, political science, geography, and science to explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.” The newest course curriculum has four main units: Origins of the African Diaspora; Freedom, Enslavement, and Resistance; the Practice of Freedom; and Movements and Debates. The College Board claims that it collaborated with universities, colleges, and more than 300 experts and professors to create the course for college credit, and “more than 200 institutions have already committed to supporting AP African American Studies.”
The College Board has outlined its timeline for the AP course in a pilot program. Sixty high schools across the country are trying the class this year and, next year, additional hundreds of high schools will pilot the course, and students will take the first African-American students AP exams in the spring of 2024. Starting fall of 2024, all schools would be able to offer the course, and the AP African American Studies Exam would be available to all students.
It’s difficult to research the course without seeing headlines mentioning Florida. There were many drafts of the course’s materials and outline, one of which was leaked. According to ABC News, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida openly rejected the course, calling it “indoctrination” and “lacking educational value” while announcing that he plans to ban the course if the curriculum was not modified.
Keep in mind that Florida Statute 1003.42(2)(H) maintains the right to teach about African American history, but there is also the recent “Stop WOKE” Act that limits race-related content in Florida schools, colleges, and workplaces. DeSantis has faced criticism from state legislators, students, and a civil rights lawyer named Ben Crump, who threatened to sue Florida if it refuses to teach AP African American studies.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Florida Department of Education said that the course violates Florida law and had content that was “historically fictional,” a statement which College Board took issue with. In the final curriculum, secondary sources relating to the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and reparations were removed.
According to The New York Times, College Board still claims that it did not “purge” key lessons on Black feminism and gay Black Americans, and that its final curriculum was already revised and finished before DeSantis’ comments. Gone from the curriculum are works from Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a Columbia law professor whose work is “foundational in critical race theory”, Roderick Ferguson, a Yale professor focused on queer social movements, Ta-Nehisi Coates, a writer who argues in favor of reparations for slavery, and Bell Hooks, a writer who helped elevate conversations on race, feminism, and class.
The future of AP African American Studies is still up in the air for many states. Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia signed Executive Order 1 in January 2022 that limits the teaching of “inherently divisive concepts” and “critical race theory” in schools. According to ABC News, Youngkin has asked the Education Secretary to review the AP African American Studies course in relation to his executive order.
Virginia and Florida are not the only states hesitant to allow the course's curriculum. Many states have already banned teaching Critical Race Theory (CRT) and many others are attempting to do so with bills in their respective state legislatures.
Britannica defines Critical Race Theory as the belief that racial bias is built into the law and legal institutions of the United States, which maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans. With such states as New Hampshire, Texas, Oklahoma, Idaho, Montana, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and others having banned CRT, the availability of AP African American Studies be in the US remains a question. We will see in the coming months and years as more states take stances on the course.
As for Edgemont, Mr. Hosier said, “Faculty members are given the opportunity to present new courses each year to a committee consisting of students, parents, faculty, and administrators. The committee considers new courses and, if approved, the teacher presents the new course to the Board of Education and Superintendent at a BOE meeting held during the middle of the year.” So if any faculty sees AP African American Studies to be crucial to an Edgemont education, we might see it as an option in the Social Studies curriculum.