As the new school year begins, high school students at advanced levels will now have the opportunity to take a course devoted to the breadth of African American history.
The College Board has launched the first-ever Advanced Placement course that is devoted to African American studies. The program is the 40th course for high school students to receive collegiate credit introduced by the board, and its first new one since 2014. The new AP African American Studies course will be available at 60 high schools nationwide this fall. Students who participate this year will not receive college credit, but it will be available for those who enroll during the 2024-2025 school year when it will be offered nationwide at every high school.
Many educators have lauded the interdisciplinary course, which will include art, music, politics, culture, film, and geography among its 38 subjects to give students an all-encompassing look at 400 years of the experiences of African Americans. “Nothing is more dramatic than having the College Board launch an AP course in a field—that signifies ultimate acceptance and ultimate academic legitimacy,” said professor and scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. in an interview with TIME. Gates was involved in the construction of the course along with other experts. “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 announcement of the course comes as the nation is embroiled in a highly politicized environment surrounding education, with a curriculum involving African American history and racial injustices at the center. According to PEN America, there have been 137 gag orders aimed at limiting inclusive texts and lesson plans in 36 states since early last year. Texas and Florida have been at the forefront of this movement fueled by right-wing politicians such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed the controversial FL H.B.7 bill into law. Among other things, the law suppresses lessons on topics such as “white privilege.”
That hasn’t stopped students from clamoring to enroll in the new AP course. Marlon Williams-Clark, an instructor at Florida State University, has lauded the College Board for this course and pointed out the enthusiasm. “You can tell there is a thirst [students] have to obtain this knowledge,” he said in an interview with CBS News. “I think that this course will be the forerunner for other histories on…marginalized people.”
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