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How the Rocky Road of AP African American Studies Passed through Florida

On the second night of Black History Month, a sparkling crowd of academics and teachers gathered at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture to celebrate the unveiling of the first ever Advanced Placement course in African American studies.

But clouding the festive mood was a nagging concern. Compared with the original plans for the high school course, it now lacked, or had less of, certain topics that people at the gathering thought were essential to the discipline, like Black Lives Matter and reparations. And they wondered if the explanation was pressure from Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a probable Republican presidential candidate who has railed against what he calls “woke indoctrination” in schools.

What could explain the missing mentions of queer studies and police brutality, and the new inclusion of Black Republicans, like Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice?

Standing onstage, David Coleman, the chief executive of the College Board, the billion-dollar nonprofit that administers the SAT and A.P. courses, addressed the doubters in the room.

“They are some of the most serious criticisms that have been leveled at the A.P. program in its history,” Mr. Coleman said, somberly. But no, he said to the guests, the motivations for the changes had been pure.

In the days since, the conflict has grown only more vitriolic. In an extraordinary back and forth last week, the state of Florida released a chronology of its communications with the College Board, seeming to take credit for alterations in the A.P. course.

The College Board, which relies on state participation to administer its tests, has fired back, saying that changes were made after hearing from teachers about what worked, and politics had nothing to do with it.

In a statement on Saturday, it said that the governor and the Florida Department of Education were posturing to stoke publicity: “We have made the mistake of treating FDOE with the courtesy we always accord to an education agency, but they have instead exploited this courtesy for their political agenda.”

And, in a statement to The Times, the College Board added that the Education Department showed “ignorance and derision for the field of African American studies.”


Greg Carr, an African American studies professor at Howard University and an adviser on the curriculum, said the high school class is a step forward, and that it was unrealistic to expect it to look like a true college-level African American studies course. “The College Board is not revolutionary,” he said. “It maintains the status quo in this country — the hierarchy, the formation. The question we have to ask ourselves is what is possible.”

Read entire article at New York Times