College Board revises AP course in African American studies thrust into spotlight by Florida Gov. DeSantis

Kahlila Bandele, a senior in high school, is used to taking courses that do not address the African American experience. Her 9 a.m. class is another example. It covered topics ranging from Afro-Caribbean immigration to jazz.

In her Advanced Placement course in African American Studies, the discussion touched on figures such as Malcolm X and Marcus Garvey. She stated that she was not going to be discussing Black people in her AP European History course — even though they were colonized and occupied by Europeans.

The new course is being tested in 60 schools across the country, including Baton Rouge, La. Ron DeSantis threatened that he would ban it from his state. This rejection has sparked new political debate about how schools should teach about race.

The College Board released Wednesday the official curriculum. It rescinds parts that were criticized by DeSantis as well as other conservatives. The exam does not cover topics such as Black Lives Matter, slavery reparations, and queer life. They are instead included on a list of states and school districts that can be used for student projects.

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The College Board overseeing AP exams stated that revisions were made to the course before DeSantis raised objections.

The organization stated in writing that “the fact is that this landmark course was shaped over many years by the most distinguished scholars in the field, and not political influence.”

The course will be expanded to hundreds more high schools next year using the revised curriculum. Officials at College Board said that developers met with more than 200 professors, including many historically Black colleges, and sought input from the teachers who were piloting the class.

Students at Baton Rouge Magnet High School were well aware of the controversy surrounding the course. On Monday, however, the class was filled with discussions about the Negritude movement and Negrismo movements which celebrated Black culture as well as a painting by Wifredo Lam (Afro-Asian-Latino painter).

Bandele, 18 years old, stated that she didn’t get the argument that the course would indoctrinate kids. She said, “I don’t feel particularly indoctrinated.”

DeSantis is a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2024. He said that he was blocking Florida’s course because it promoted a political agenda.

“In Florida, our education standards don’t prevent but require that we teach Black history. “That’s part our core curriculum,” DeSantis stated at a press conference last week. “We want education, not indoctrination.”

DeSantis spokeswoman on Wednesday, stating that the state education department was reviewing the curriculum to ensure compliance with Florida law.

Despite assurances from the College Board, Wednesday’s outrage at the idea that the course had been changed by political controversy was new. David Johns, the executive director of National Black Justice Coalition, said, “It is infuriating to wake up on the first Day of Black History Month to hear that white men are trading in privilege horses essential and inextricably connected parts of Black History, which is American History,”

Students have been very interested in the course at all schools where it was introduced. Emmitt Glynn decided to teach it in Baton Rouge to two classes instead of the original one.

His students had read excerpts from “The Wretched of the Earth”, a book by Frantz Fanon that examines the violence inherent within colonial societies. Students engaged in lively discussions about how the text related to their knowledge of the conflict between colonizers, Native Americans, and the war in Ukraine. They also discussed the police violence in Memphis.

Glynn stated that “we’ve been covering all the gamut, from the shores Africa to where are now in 1930s, and will continue through history.” He expressed pride at the connections that his students made between the past & the present.

Malina Ouyang (17) felt that the class filled in gaps in her knowledge. She said that she realized how much was not covered in other classes after taking this class.

Matthew Evans (16) said that the class taught him a variety of perspectives about Black history. He stated that the political controversy was just “a distraction.”

He said, “Anytime you try to silence anything, it will only make someone want more information about it.”

The College Board offers AP courses in all academic areas, including science, math, and the fine arts. These courses can be taken at your own discretion.

Students who score well on the final exam are usually granted course credit at their university.

Malcolm Reed teaches AP at St. Amant High in Louisiana. He tries to be aware of the effects that discussions and material can have on students.

I gave them the information, and they have seen light bulbs turn on. I ask them how it affects you. He said, “How do you feel about this learning?” It’s also a new experience for me and I’m taking it all in stride. We are not only learning history, we are making history.”