Beginning this school year, some students across the country will have a chance to take a deep dive into Black history that goes well beyond what they could learn during the month of February. The College Board is developing a new Advanced Placement (AP) course in African American Studies. And it comes at a time when many states are looking to restrict how schools teach race to our children, and just about everything is labeled as Critical Race Theory (CRT).
AP courses give high school students an advantage in college, making their applications stand out and giving them a chance to earn college credit before they arrive on campus. And this course, the first new AP offering since 2014, will be rolled out beginning this fall in nearly 60 schools around the country, with more to be added next school year.
The College Board developed the course working closely with professors at HBCUs and other experts, including Henry Louis Gates Jr., who believes the College Board is helping to give African American Studies a little more street cred in academia. “Nothing is more dramatic than having the College Board launch an AP course in a field—that signifies ultimate acceptance and ultimate academic legitimacy,” Gates said. “AP African American Studies is not CRT. It’s not the 1619 Project. It is a mainstream, rigorously vetted, academic approach to a vibrant field of study, one half a century old in the American academy, and much older, of course, in historically Black colleges and universities.”
The course will cover a lot of ground. In addition to the history of Africa, the AP African American Studies course will look at slavery, Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement. It will also cover African American music, movies and culture.
Nearly 40 states have either already passed legislation limiting the way race is discussed in the classroom or are seriously thinking about ways to push restrictions through. That includes Florida, where Governor Ron DeSantis is trying to make the case for his Stop WOKE Act that, among other things, prohibits teaching that members of one ethnic group are inherently racist and should feel guilty about actions committed by others in the past (like slavery).