College Board releases AP African American Studies curriculum amid controversy


Credit: College Board

The new AP African American Studies course, offered by the College Board, is facing criticism from many states.

Brennan Mumper, Staff Writer

Recently, the educational organization College Board announced that it would be developing a high school curriculum for an AP African American Studies class.
The official course framework for the class was released on Feb. 1. After testing, the class will become available for school use during the 2024-2025 school year.
According to College Board, the class is intended to “explore the vital contributions and experiences of African Americans.”
However, the announcement did not come without controversy.
Florida governor Ron DeSantis stated that he would ban the new class once it was released, claiming that it was historically inaccurate and lacked educational value.
DeSantis has also said that he will cut funding from any course that teaches critical race theory, which is the idea that racial bias has been built into Western culture and government, as well as from any diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, calling them “an ideological filter” and “discriminatory.”
Virginia governor Glenn Youngkin has called for the AP African American Studies curriculum to be reviewed in response to Florida’s rejection of the course.
Additionally, some people noticed that the official course framework was missing several aspects of the initial pilot, including writings by Black LGBTQ+ historical figures and discussions of topics such as Black feminism, intersectionality, and critical race theory.
Some people claim that the alterations to College Board’s AP African American Studies curriculum were a direct response to DeSantis’ criticism. However, the College Board denies these claims, stating that “no states or districts have seen the official framework that is released, much less provided feedback on it.”
The College Board responded to the criticism on Feb. 11. “We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander…Our failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field,” they said.
The College Board said that they had been in contact with the Florida Department of Education, and that it failed to provide any genuine criticism of the course, instead asking vague and meaningless questions and calling the course “historically fictional.”
In response, College Board stated that it “condemns this uninformed caricature of African American Studies and the harm it does to scholars and students.”
The College Board went on to explain that any topics which had been “removed” from the course had been done so in the interest of time, and that, depending on how a teacher structured the course, they could still be discussed.
College Board’s AP African American Studies course will consist of four units, covering the origins of African diaspora, slavery and revolution in the United States, reconstruction and life after the Civil War, and the Civil Rights movement and development of Black culture. The class will require students to read and analyze primary documents from a variety of perspectives.
“I think adding AP African American Studies [to the history curriculum] is a very good idea as we do not currently cover much of this history,” history teacher Nate Weakland said in an email interview. “Reconstruction is discussed/covered lightly in US History, as are some of the social movements, but not in depth.”
While the class does cover many topics that are often left out of typical history classes, such as early African history and the influence of the Black Panther party, some critics point out that it fails to provide course content on other subjects, such as the important role that many Black LGBTQ+ individuals played in the queer rights movement, as well as modern social issues, like the Black Lives Matter movement.
LGBTQ+ history has long been neglected in American schools, and over the past few years, many states have attempted to ban critical race theory from being taught, even in colleges.
Assistant Superintendent Misty Swanger spoke on the possibility of the class becoming available for students at Hayes.
“New classes are usually proposed by departments and the department head to [principal] Dr. Ric Stranges,” Swanger said. “The high school administrative team then works with the counselors and the Director of Secondary Education to determine whether the class fits Hayes.”
Swanger said that many factors are considered when determining if a new class should be offered, such as whether the class will replace an old class, if there are state standards for the class, and whether or not the class would require new staff. After these discussions, the school board decides to approve or disapprove the class.
“It is a thorough process to have new classes offered,” Swanger said. “The most important factor is student need.”
Weakland said that he supported the idea of AP African American Studies being made available at Hayes.
“I would actually like to see an African American Studies class added to the regular curriculum (a non-AP version), giving students a chance in high school to learn more about this specific history,” Weakland said.