AP African American Studies Faces Resistance in Attempts to Reach Classrooms


The library’s display for Black History Month – showcasing diverse narratives.

By Anzor Mustafa, Staff Writer

On the first day of Black History Month in February, College Board announced it would make significant reforms to its AP African American Studies course. This announcement came after right-wing pushback to the course and Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis’ criticism.  In a statement, DeSantis accused the curriculum  of “woke indoctrination” and said it “lacks educational value.”

The course explores the vital contributions of African Americans to the foundation of the United States. It delves into various fields such as literature, art, humanities, political science, geography, and science. The scope of the course covers 400 years from the colonization of the US and the installation of enslavement to the modern day.

A potential front-runner for the 2024 Presidential election, DeSantis, has taken on numerous cultural battles—colleges allowing transgender athletes; Ben and Jerry’s not being supportive enough of Israel; the LGBTQ+ community with the “Don’t Say Gay” bill; and the takeover of the New College of Florida. 

DeSantis, Florida State Legislature, passed the Stop WOKE Act. This law interdicts the teaching of critical race theory in schools and prohibited instruction that draws parallels between skin color, privilege, and oppression. Amid a national conversation about how racism should be taught in public schools, he rejected this new AP course and argued that it violates state law. The Florida State Department of Education noted that “The content of this course is inexplicably contrary to Florida law.” 

Ron DeSantis is now suggesting getting rid of the College Board entirely in Florida. He condemned it, stating, “Nobody elected (the College Board) to anything. They’re just …  providing services, and so you can either utilize those services or not. They have provided these AP courses for a long time, but … there are probably some other vendors who may be able to do that job as good or maybe even a lot better.”  

AP classes allow students to engage in challenging coursework that would hopefully offset their college classes. If students score highly on an AP Exam it could bypass some of the general education requirements. Additionally, it provides students a numerous amount of educational opportunities. 

Sophomore Natalie Lewis, added, “I plan on taking Social Studies AP classes next year in hopes that it would provide me a more in-depth insight on historical subjects. So, the thought that might be challenged, or taken away, in another state, scares me. What kind of example are we setting?  Do political agendas override students’ education?”

If states remove financial support for APs, students from wealthier families will still have access to the courses and exams, Denise Pope, AP course expert, proclaimed to USA Today.  She continues and adds, it would create a greater class divide and those that will be harmed the most are lower-income students.  She is the co-founder of Stressed-Out Students which was founded at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education. 

Pope said that limiting APs in Florida will create a larger rift.  “There are other options besides AP. I just don’t think DeSantis is (challenging the College Board) for the right reasons,” Pope said. 

DeSantis went on to say that the course “imposed a political agenda” with a preliminary framework that included the study of “queer theory” and historic political movements that advocated for “abolishing prisons.”

In a press conference on January 31, 2023, DeSantis said that Florida has the backbone to stand up to indoctrination and only stands for education.

It will not pass in Florida unless key points are taken from the curriculum such as queer theory, Black Lives Matter, and intersectionality. Subsequently, the College Board said in a statement that the controversial topics would be optional. “Contemporary events like the Black Lives Matter movement, reparations, and mass incarceration were optional topics in the pilot course,” the statement said. “Our lack of clarity allowed the narrative to arise that political forces had ‘downgraded’ the role of these contemporary movements and debates in the AP class.”

Kimberle Crenshaw, a leading critical race theory scholar said it was a “shame” that the College Board is removing the discussion of intersectionality. She noted that intersectionality is a uniting framework. “So the reality is that Black people are not just straight, they’re not just men, they’re not just middle class.”

Intersectionality is the recognition that varying characteristics of identities such as race, class, gender, and religion as they apply to individuals create overlapping systems of oppression. Columbia professor, Crenshaw coined the term in 1989 to broaden our understanding of Black reality. Florida regarded the inclusion of her work in AP African American Studies as problematic.

New Jersey is expanding the course from 1 school to 26 high schools, and  Governor Phil Murphy hopes to set an example for the nation. “The expansion of AP African American Studies in New Jersey will grant our students the opportunity to learn about the innumerable ways in which Black Americans have shaped and strengthened our country,” Murphy said in a Newark classroom last month.

Through Murphy’s attempts to expand the AP course in New Jersey, students’ education will become more enriched. Additionally, students will have a broader sense of race, and its effects.

Sophomore Lucia Nesbitt hopes “that people see how important this class is. It is essential that we recognize people’s contributions.”

Anastasia Mann, a lecturer at Princeton University who teaches a course on reparations, said students need to learn about the decisions that led to infant and maternal mortality, wealth gaps, and modern-day segregation.

Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, Chair of the New Jersey Legislative Black Caucus in Passaic, said schools need to provide students with an in-depth perspective on African American history.“I think the governor made a courageous step by really going against what is happening and what we hear in some of the other states,”  Sumter said. “Protecting education and access to education is critical so students would have an understanding of the impact — the good, the bad, and the ugly — so we don’t repeat some of the mistakes and the pains of the past.”