In a bid to offer a comprehensive perspective on Black history through an interdisciplinary lens, the College Board has unveiled updates to the recommended course material for its Advanced Placement (AP) African American Studies program. The revised framework, released on Wednesday, maintains existing topics while expanding into new territories, providing educators with choices regarding contentious subjects that have drawn scrutiny from conservative quarters.
Initially introduced as part of a pilot program during the 2022-23 academic year, the course delves into Black history, encompassing historical events, prominent figures, as well as music, art, literature, and culture. A culmination of a decade-long collaborative effort involving over 200 educators from various academic institutions nationwide, the course has garnered significant popularity, with 60 schools offering it in the first pilot year and approximately 13,000 students across 40 states currently enrolled for the 2023-24 academic term.
However, the program has faced criticism from conservative circles, with Florida education officials rejecting the course earlier this year, citing its alleged lack of educational value. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, while campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination in 2022, expressed concerns about teaching topics related to racism, emphasizing a commitment to preventing the use of tax dollars for teaching divisive narratives.
Despite the criticism, supporters argue that the course has been a transformative experience for many students, parents, and educators. Brandi Waters, Senior Director of AP African American Studies at the College Board, noted, “It’s been so meaningful to so many students, parents, and educators. Students are really excited to learn things they hadn’t learned before and something that resonates with their lives today.”
The AP African American History course spans a wide range of topics, including the African continent’s historical, cultural, and anthropological aspects, the TransAtlantic slave trade, the Civil War, emancipation, and Reconstruction. The revamped curriculum also includes new sections on anticolonialism, Black political movements, World War II, institutional racism, and modern issues such as Black Lives Matter.
Despite the controversies, the College Board aims to provide a comprehensive educational experience, allowing students to earn college credit based on their performance in an end-of-year test. The organization emphasizes its commitment to transparency, making course frameworks publicly available for scrutiny.
As the debate over the course continues, the College Board anticipates that the enhancements will further stimulate interest and engagement in African American studies, fostering a broader understanding of the multifaceted strategies employed by African American communities to combat inequality and systemic marginalization.