After intense pushback by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board has completely overhauled its new Advanced Placement course in African American studies ― an apparent cave to pressure from Republicans enraged by the idea of students focusing on Black history.
On Wednesday ― the first day of Black History Month ― the College Board released an official curriculum for the course that no longer includes many of the topics that originally angered conservatives, including DeSantis.
The new curriculum no longer names several Black writers, scholars and leaders associated with Black feminism, LGBTQ issues and critical race theory. Some of those people include Columbia University law professor Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, Yale University professor Roderick Ferguson, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and writer bell hooks.
The curriculum also no longer features the Black Lives Matter movement as a topic, though it does now include “Black conservatism” as a research project idea.
The College Board is a nonprofit that oversees college entrance exams. It provided the pilot African American Studies course to 60 schools across the country and plans to make it more accessible in 2024.
The board first announced the new AP course in August and was widely applauded by scholars who stressed the importance of students learning about Black history, regardless of their background. But when conservative publications obtained an early draft of the curriculum, right-wing leaders like those in Florida shut the idea down.
DeSantis announced last month that he would ban the curriculum, and the Florida Department of Education said it would not approve the course unless the College Board overhauled it to align with state laws restricting public schools from teaching about systemic inequality.
Hundreds of faculty members in African American studies released a letter on Tuesday condemning DeSantis’ attack on the new course, accusing him of censoring education and attempting “to intimidate the College Board into appeasement.”
“We will not mince words. The contention that an AP curriculum in African American Studies ‘lacks educational value’ is a proposition supported by white supremacist ideology, because it fundamentally demeans the history, culture, and contributions of Black people,” the letter reads.
“This has terrible consequences for the young people of color who live in that state,” it continues. “It echoes other ongoing efforts across the United States to purge the public sphere of any mention of ‘divisive concepts,’ or any conversation about the enduring fact of racism in the history of this nation, this hemisphere, and this world.”
The College Board’s decision to succumb “to bad-faith attacks by conservatives and letting them determine the proper way to examine the Black experience will only encourage more of this,” tweeted Nikole Hannah-Jones, a journalist who created the “1619 Project.” The project, which has drawn ire from conservatives since its launch in 2019, works to reframe how U.S. history is traditionally taught, placing slavery and the Black experience at the center of America’s founding.
David Coleman, who heads the College Board, told The New York Times that the board changed the curriculum because it is still working to perfect the course and not because it faced political pressure.
“At the College Board, we can’t look to statements of political leaders,” he told the Times, adding that the changes came from “the input of professors” and “longstanding AP principles.”
DeSantis has made it a priority to overhaul Florida’s higher education system to skew toward conservative ideologies. He enacted the so-called “Stop WOKE Act” last year to prevent schools from teaching about systemic oppression. A judge blocked the state from enforcing the law for colleges and universities, but high schools must still abide by the restrictions.
Several Florida high school students threatened to sue Florida and DeSantis over the statewide ban on the new AP course, accusing them of censoring public education and favoring white history over Black. It’s unclear how the students will proceed now that the College Board has changed the curriculum or whether the state will now welcome the new course.