The South Carolina History Project: AP Language and Composition in the Era of Black History and Black History, and its Implications for Future Colleges
In the early 2000s, when I was a student at Ridge View High School, in Columbia, South Carolina, I loved to parse the legacies of certain historical figures: W.E.B. Du Bois, in AP US History; Malcolm X, in AP English Language and Composition.
“I wonder if colleges will be more receptive to an AP course in this discipline than they were 10 years ago after the events surrounding George Floyd and increased awareness and attention paid towards issues of inequity and unfairness and brutality directed toward African Americans.”
Plus, it’s no small thing to test out the course in South Carolina, which didn’t banish the Confederate battle flag from statehouse grounds until 2015, in the heartrending aftermath of a White supremacist massacre.
The course is currently being tested in 60 schools around the U.S., and is intended to be used in hundreds of additional high schools in the next academic year. The College Board, which oversees AP courses, said developers consulted with professors from more than 200 colleges, including several historically Black institutions.
She wants the course to be offered to people who look like her, as well as other people who are interested in learning about history that has been ignored. I hope that the course gives room for more discussion. Lots of people are scared to talk about race, but with more conversation comes better understanding.”
Queens of Africa: What do they have in common with their teachers, their families, and their families,” Ashton Walker, a junior, told CNN
I did not know that there were queens in Africa. Like, at all,” Ashton Walker, a junior, told CNN. “We got to learn about Queen Nzinga and Idia. The powerful women leaders that did amazing things for their kingdoms were very interesting.
“It matters that we get to learn all these things as a society. We don’t ever really get to hear about any of these figures or what they went through,” she said. Black classmates deserve to hear this history. It’s awesome that Ridge View is a majority-Black school and gets to help create this course.”
Her mother, Nicole Walker, who was involved in bringing the pilot course to Ridge View and is the director of the school’s Scholars Academy Magnet for Business and Law (she also was my 9th grade English teacher), echoed some of these sentiments.
“We know that what’s best for kids is for them to see themselves reflected in the curriculum, for them to celebrate their cultures, for them to feel valued,” she told CNN. “We know that a kid who feels safe and valued is going to do better in school.”
Jacynth Tucker, a senior, is intimately familiar with the power of inclusivity. She said that at a previous school, she and other Black students felt invisible.
She said she cannot remember a time when she talked about the history and culture of Africa. “Being in a class where that’s more of a focus is very special to me.”
“One activity I really liked was when our teacher showed us a collage and asked, ‘What do all these people have in common?’” she told CNN. Their common thread was that they are all Black. But the point of that discussion was that, yes, they’re all Black, but there’s so much diversity within the Black community, within my community: diverse religions, gender expressions, sexualities, things like that.”
The AP African American Studies pilot course and the Republican-led racial panic are both new, and they have something in common.
According to an August analysis by PEN America, a literary and free expression organization, legislators in 36 states have introduced 137 laws this year restricting discussions about race, US history and gender in K-12 schools and higher education. The increase is 250%.
And last month, the American Library Association predicted that the number of attempts this year to censor books in K-12 schools, universities and public libraries grappling with race, gender and sexuality will exceed 2021’s record count. The ALA tallied 681 attempts between January 1 and August 31; the 2021 total was 729.
These attacks seek to determine what content is and isn’t legitimate in an academic context; they’re part of a much broader counter-mobilization against efforts to topple racial and social hierarchies.
“We’re not seeing different political conflicts. A visiting professor of political history at Georgetown University told CNN in July that we are seeing one big political conflict and a reactionary political project.
One of the senior minds in American studies is Henry Louis Gates Jr. He explained the course is not political, Soderstrom said. “We’re teaching factual information, and everything is verifiable.”
A Multidisciplinary Course on Black History and Black History for High Schools: Why Governor DeSantis’s Grassroots Action Needs to Be Revised
Sixty high schools have offered a version of the course as a pilot and more will be added in the upcoming school year. The course is expected to be available to all schools in the 2024-25 school year, according to the College Board website.
She said, “I am excited to see what’s next”, like the same thing she said when she was a high school student.
The National Black Justice Coalition, a civil rights organization that advocates for Black Lesbian and Gay people, asked the College Board to consider pulling all AP classes from the State of Florida if Governor Ron DeSantis continued to try to inject his political agenda into our classrooms.
In recent months, the multidisciplinary course has been praised by academics and historians, all while becoming a target for lawmakers aiming to restrict how topics like racism and history are being taught in public schools.
Last week, the governor said the decision was made because of the study ofqueer theory and political movements that advocated for abolition of prisons.
The course covers a range of topics from early African kingdoms to how Jim Crow laws impacted African Americans after Reconstruction, as well as the achievements of Black Americans in science, music and art.
The units include other topics, such as the responses of African American writers and activists to racism and anti-Black violence, the founding of historically Black colleges and universities, Black Caribbean migration to the United States, segregation in the 20th century, redlining and the civil rights movement.
More than 300 professors of African American studies, including faculty from dozens of HBCUs, were consulted during the development of the course framework, which was completed in December, the organization said.
Unlike the pilot version, the College Board said the official framework includes additional topics, only requires the analysis of “core historical, literary, and artistic works,” does not have a required list of secondary sources and adds a research project that counts as part of the AP exam score.
The short version is that Florida demanded changes to the course. After initially stripping back some of the content that Florida found objectionable, the College Board later hit back at the state, accusing it of “slander” and documenting months when differences could have been addressed by Florida.
The state’s education department told CNN that it had concerns about some topics of study in an 81-page document that appeared to be a preview of the course framework. The document, dated February 2022, was shared with CNN last month by DeSantis spokesperson Bryan Griffin.
In the official framework made public on Wednesday, topics such as Black Lives Matter, slavery reparations and queer theory are no longer subjects to be taught. They are included only on a list of topics that states and school systems could suggest to students for end-of-the-year projects.
The reparations debate, “gay life and expression in Black communities,” and Black Lives Matter are only included in a list of examples of the topics that students can pick for research projects.
The course framework is used by states to define the exam, but these topics are not part of that framework. This list is a partial one for illustrative purposes and can be refined by states and districts,” the College Board said in the framework.
The college board denied that it removed any mentions of Black feminism or the Gay experience from its curriculum, or that some of the revisions were made to appease the administration.
The College Board has been taking input also from teachers running the pilot classes as the draft curriculum has gone through several revisions over the last year.
A History of Black Lives and Deaths: Emmitt Glynn, Malcolm Reed, and the Dean of the Louisiana College Board
“To wake up on the first day of Black History Month to news of white men in positions of privilege horse trading essential and inextricably linked parts of Black History, which is American history, is infuriating,” said David Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition. “The lives, contributions, and stories of Black trans, queer, and non-binary/non-conforming people matter and should not be diminished or erased.”
The course has been popular among students in schools where it has been introduced. At Baton Rouge Magnet High School in Louisiana, so many students were interested that Emmitt Glynn is teaching it to two classes, instead of just the one he was originally planning.
Earlier this week, his students read selections of “The Wretched of the Earth” by Frantz Fanon, which deals with the violence inherent in colonial societies. Students connected the text to what they’d learned about the conflict between Native Americans and colonizers as well as the war inUkraine and police violence in Memphis, Tennessee.
“We’ve been covering the gamut from the shores of Africa to where we are now in the 1930s, and we will continue on through history,” Glynn said. He said he was proud to see the connections his students were making between the past and now.
The class helped fill the gaps that she had been taught. “Taking this class,” she said, “I realized how much is not said in other classes.”
The College Board has courses in math, science, social studies, foreign languages and fine arts. The courses are optional. Students who score high enough on the final exam at their college can usually get course credit at their university.
In a written statement Wednesday, College Board CEO David Coleman said the course is “an unflinching encounter with the facts and evidence of African American history and culture.”
Malcolm Reed’s classroom at St Amant High School in Louisiana has an AP class and he tries to be aware of how the material and discussions affect students.
Light bulbs go off when I give them the information. I ask them, ‘How does it affect you? How do you feel about learning this?’ ” he said. “It’s also new for me, and I’m just taking it in stride. We’re not just learning history, but we’re making history.”
“We reject any claim that our work either indoctrinates students or, on the other hand, has bowed to political pressure,” Haynie said in a statement issued by the College Board on Wednesday.
Though the nonprofit maintains it did not “purge” the curriculum of key lessons concerning “Black feminism” and “gay Black Americans,” it also acknowledged a reduction in the “breadth” of the new framework.
With these revisions, works by scholars including Roderick Ferguson, a professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Yale University, are now removed from the curriculum entirely.
“This ‘culture war’ targeting intellectuals, artists, and academics has a long, distressing history,” Ferguson wrote in an op-ed in the Chronicle of Higher Education, connecting the Florida criticism to his removal before the revisions were made public.
The state’s rejection of the AP course led to criticism across the country from other state lawmakers and civil rights organizations. Three Florida high school students announced that they would file a lawsuit against the governor if the state did not change its mind. The changes were denounced by more than 200 African American history professors.
The organization also said that Florida’s public and private objections had no bearing on changes the College Board made to the final curriculum of the course, which it released earlier this month.
The College Board of Education of South Florida (NPR). Marlon Williams-Clark: An educator at a Florida high school and the role of the College Board
At the start of the school year,NPR talked to Marlon Williams-Clark, who said that he was excited to teach the original version of the course as part of the pilot program. Williams-Clark was going to teach at a high school in Florida.
“I let them know, point-blank, there may be some topics in which it is a thin line and that we’ll just have to be careful how we talk about some things and how we approach some subjects,” he told NPR. “I can’t be the leader of any discussions.”
The College Board now says it should have come out more strongly against the criticisms by Florida officials sooner and that its “failure to raise our voice betrayed Black scholars everywhere and those who have long toiled to build this remarkable field.”
In a lengthy statement released Saturday, the national education nonprofit said it should have more quickly addressed claims by Florida’s Department of Education that the course was indoctrinating students and lacked educational value, which the College Board called “slander.”
“Florida is attempting to claim a political victory by taking credit retroactively for changes we ourselves made but that they never suggested to us,” the College Board said in a statement.
There are a number of laws that have been signed by the governor. One such law, called the “Parental Rights in Education” law but dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics, is a ban on classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity. A law called the Stop W.O.K.E Act limits how issues of race can be taught.
The College Board of AP African American Studies: What does it do? A comment on CNN’s Tina Burnside and Gregory Clary
The organization said that it had made a mistake in treating FDOE with the courtesy they always accord to an education agency. After each written or verbal exchange we politely thanked them, although they had not given any feedback.
As a result, the College Board has filled the vacuum and, according to Boeckenstedt, “is sort of entrenched in circular business processes that feed off each other and help it generate more of its monopoly status.”
CNN’s Tina Burnside and Gregory Clary gave details on the public spat. CNN has more on the controversial proposed AP African American studies course curriculum.
“Who elected them? Is there anyone else that provides services? He said that the International Baccalaureate is an example of an alternative.
The College Board data shows that more than 30% of US public high school graduates in the class of 2021, took at least one AP class. In Florida, students from 733 public high schools took an AP test, per College Board data.
When many state universities around the country made SAT and ACT tests optional for college admissions during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Florida did not. The College Board competes with a nonprofit organization that administers the college entrance exam.
What Does the College Board Do? Revisiting the Boeckenstedt Lectures on Black and White Issues in Public Colleges and Universities
Now, moving on to purge diversity efforts, he has demanded the names of staff and programs involved with diversity at public colleges and universities. And he’s led the charge to crack down on what school districts can teach on the issues of race and gender.
The American Civil Liberties Union suggested moving away from tests if the Supreme Court outlaws the consideration of race in admissions programs.
Florida does not like the AP African American studies curriculum and also dislikes the standardized tests as barriers to inclusion.
The College Board has a large role to play in American education, generating over $1 billion in revenue and paying executives seven-figure salaries.
The College Board says on its website that members of its 6,000 organizations appoint delegates to serve on its three national assembly.
The vice provost is at Oregon State University. He learned about the College Board being a business when he sat on College Board advisory boards more than a decade ago.
“The good thing is that states and even local entities are allowed to sort of mold and create the curriculum that is most relevant to their citizens and their population,” Boeckenstedt said.
“On the other hand, it makes it extraordinarily difficult for us as a nation to figure out whether students are learning the things we think they should be learning, and we have no real way to assess or even compare learning for school districts, across different schools and across different populations,” he said.
He said states should take some power back from the College Board. For instance, he’d like to see states gather and share the information of their prospective college students with universities rather than allowing the College Board to license that information to schools and generate revenue with it.
Boeckenstedt argued that teachers are so focused on preparing students for the AP tests that they feel restricted from deviating from the curriculum.
John Moscatiello told me that many teachers are frustrated by certain aspects of the AP program, but also respect it because of the breadth of knowledge put into the course outlines.
The College Board has responded to criticism by adding a math course and restoring some years of history to its world history classes.