The College Board is facing heated criticism for its revisions to an Advanced Placement (AP) African American studies program after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said the course “lacked educational value” and would not go forward in his state’s schools.
The original interdisciplinary course, which is being piloted in 60 schools around the nation this school year, included lessons on Black queer studies, the Black Lives Matter movement, Black feminist literary thought, the reparations movement and the Black struggle in the 21st century.
But a new framework released Wednesday noticeably removed Black queer studies from its coursework, along with Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory. The topic of Black Lives Matter is now optional, and “Black conservatism” has been introduced as a potential research subject.
“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,” David J. Johns, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition, said in a statement.
Johns said the College Board had “capitulated” to DeSantis’s “extremist anti-Black censorship” and that the new course is an “insult to the lived experiences of millions of Black Americans” across the nation, including their ancestors and their legacy.
“The assault on my existence feels like gaslighting,” he said. “The distortions of fact-based truths and suppression of how beautifully diverse Black people have built this country for free should infuriate everyone who purports to care about democracy.”
“The lives, contributions, and stories of Black trans, queer, and non-binary/non-conforming people matter and should not be diminished or erased,” he added. “Black history has always been queer. You cannot teach Black history while erasing members of our community and the contributions made to our community and this country.”
Prominent LGBTQ+ Black figures include Bayard Rustin, who, as a key adviser to Martin Luther King Jr., helped organize the March on Washington; renowned author and essayist James Baldwin, known for novels including “Another Country” and “Giovanni’s Room”; and Marsha P. Johnson, a trailblazing transgender activist.
Florida state Sen. Shevrin Jones (D), the state’s first openly gay senator, said these course changes are the result of DeSantis, who is weighing a 2024 presidential run, “ginning up culture war after culture war.”
“This is part of a larger war on our very ability to think, question, and engage in our democracy,” Jones said in a statement to The Hill. “It is a national attempt to redirect how students learn.”
“The techniques of distortion, denial, and distraction are all part of the right’s dangerous efforts to shape public perceptions and undermine trust in the truth,” he added. “The people deserve better.”
Last week, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) had warned the College Board that his state would reject a revised AP African American studies course “designed to appease extremists like the Florida Governor and his allies.”
“Illinois expects any AP course offered on African American Studies to include a factual accounting of history, including the role played by black queer Americans,” Pritzker said in a letter to David Coleman, CEO of the College Board.
Florida’s Department of Education is reviewing the revisions to ensure they follow state law, which restricts how topics such as racism can be taught in schools and prohibits any instruction that could make someone feel “personal responsibility” for historic wrongdoings because of their race, sex or national origin.
In a New York Times op-ed, NAACP Legal Defense Fund director-counsel Janai Nelson said censoring AP African American studies may “sow the racial divisions that enable white supremacy.”
“The losses to our nation, if this broad attack on our shared history is allowed to continue, are incalculable,” Nelson wrote. “Not only will it breed a generation of Americans indoctrinated by ignorance; it will deny them the analytical skills to understand the complex history of this experimental democracy, as well as the historical grounding to sustain it.”