College Board Enhances Advanced Placement African American Studies Course Amid Criticism
The College Board has unveiled a revised framework for its Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies course, following extensive scrutiny and conservative criticism. This update introduces additional content on crucial historical events such as the Tulsa Race Massacre, as well as exploring the influence of Black culture on film, sports, and discriminatory practices like redlining. These adjustments aim to provide a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of African American history and culture.
Earlier this year, the course faced opposition from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who pledged to ban it in his state, asserting that it promoted a political agenda. In response to such criticism, the College Board removed specific topics, including Black Lives Matter, slavery reparations, and queer life. The latest revision seeks to address some of these concerns by reinstating a unit on feminism and intersectionality, featuring the Combahee River Collective Statement and works by influential Black writers such as Amiri Baraka, bell hooks, and Audre Lorde.
The controversy surrounding the course prompted the College Board to pledge a revision in April, with a commitment to providing an “unflinching encounter with the facts.” However, not all previously removed topics were reinstated, and the Black Lives Matter movement remains excluded from the final AP exam.
The course, officially launching next academic year, aims to provide a foundational understanding of African American studies at the high school level. Nelva Williamson, a member of the course’s development committee and an experienced educator, emphasized that updates are based on teacher recommendations and aligned with the latest scholarship and collegiate-level resources.
Critics have attempted to conflate university-level discussions with high school curricula, a misconception challenged by Rashad Shabazz, a professor at Arizona State University. Shabazz clarified that the AP course provides essential knowledge without delving deeply into theoretical discussions typically found at the university level.
The AP African American Studies course, initially piloted in 60 schools in 2022, expanded to approximately 700 schools and 13,000 students this academic year. The revised framework, developed by a collaborative effort involving nearly 300 African American Studies scholars and educators, defines the course content and represents over three years of rigorous development.
While the College Board expresses optimism about the growing interest in the course, the extent of its adoption across U.S. schools remains uncertain. The revisions aim to strike a balance between addressing criticism and delivering a robust educational experience for students.