The College Board Strips Down Its A.P. Curriculum for African American Studies (2023)

After heavy criticism from Gov. Ron DeSantis, the College Board released on Wednesday an official curriculum for its new Advanced Placement course in African American Studies — stripped of much of the subject matter that had angered the governor and other conservatives.

The College Board purged the names of many Black writers and scholars associated with critical race theory, the queer experience and Black feminism. It ushered out some politically fraught topics, like Black Lives Matter, from the formal curriculum.

And it added something new: “Black conservatism” is now offered as an idea for a research project.

When it announced the A.P. course in August, the College Board clearly believed it was providing a class whose time had come, and it was celebrated by eminent scholars like Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard as an affirmation of the importance of African American studies. But the course, which is meant to be for all students of diverse backgrounds, quickly ran into a political buzz saw after an early draft leaked to conservative publications like The Florida Standard and National Review.

In January, Governor DeSantis of Florida, who is expected to run for president, announced he would ban the curriculum, citing the draft version. State education officials said it was not historically accurate and violated state law that regulates how race-related issues are taught in public schools.

The attack on the A.P. course turned out to be the prelude to a much larger agenda. On Tuesday, Governor DeSantis unveiled a proposal to overhaul higher education that would eliminate what he called “ideological conformity” by among other things, mandating courses in Western civilization.

In another red flag, the College Board faced the possibility of other opposition: more than two dozen states have adopted some sort of measure against critical race theory, according to a tracking project by the University of California, Los Angeles, law school.

(Video) College Board releases revised AP African American studies course amid criticism 

David Coleman, the head of the College Board, said in an interview that the changes were all made for pedagogical reasons, not to bow to political pressure. “At the College Board, we can’t look to statements of political leaders,” he said. The changes, he said, came from “the input of professors” and “longstanding A.P. principles.”

He said that during the initial test of the course this school year, the board received feedback that the secondary, more theoretical sources were “quite dense” and that students connected more with primary sources, which he said have always been the foundation of A.P. courses.

“We experimented with a lot of things including assigning secondary sources, and we found a lot of issues arose as we did,” Mr. Coleman said. “I think what is most surprising and powerful for most people is looking directly at people’s experience.”

The dispute over the A.P. course is about more than just the content of a high school class. Education is the center of much vitriolic partisan debate, and the College Board’s decision to try to build a curriculum covering one of the most charged subjects in the country — the history of race in America — may have all but guaranteed controversy. If anything, the arguments over the curriculum underscore the fact that the United States is a country that cannot agree on its own story, especially the complicated and charged history of Black Americans.

In light of the politics, the College Board seemed to opt out of the politics. In its revised 234-page curriculum framework, the content on Africa, slavery, reconstruction and the civil rights movement remains largely the same. But the study of contemporary topics — including Black Lives Matter, affirmative action, queer life and the debate over reparations — is downgraded. The subjects are no longer part of the exam, and are simply offered on a list of options for a required research project.

And even that list, in a nod to local laws, “can be refined by local states and districts.”

The expunged writers and scholars include Kimberlé W. Crenshaw, a law professor at Columbia, which touts her work as “foundational in critical race theory”; Roderick Ferguson, a Yale professor who has written about queer social movements; and Ta-Nehisi Coates, the author who has made the case for reparations for slavery. Gone, too, is bell hooks, the writer who shaped discussions about race, feminism and class.

(Video) Tyre Nichols funeral, College Board buckles to Desantis on Black Studies, Miss Coppin St. Blasted…

A.P. exams are deeply embedded in the American education system. Students take the courses and exams to show their academic prowess when applying to college. Most four-year colleges and universities grant college credit for students who score high enough on an A.P. exam. And more than a million public high school students graduating in 2021 took at least one A.P. exam.

But the fracas over the exam raises questions about whether the African American Studies course, as modified, fulfills its mission of mimicking a college-level course, which usually expects students to analyze secondary sources and take on contentious topics.

Chester E. Finn, Jr., a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, said the College Board had come up with a smart strategy by not eradicating the “touchy parts,” but rather making them optional.

“DeSantis likes to make noise and he’s running for president,” Mr. Finn said. “But they’ve been getting feedback from all over the place in the 60 schools they’ve been piloting this in. I think it’s a way of dealing with the United States at this point, not just DeSantis. Some of these things they might want to teach in New York, but not Dallas. Or San Francisco but not St. Petersburg.”

But Professor Crenshaw, the critical race theory scholar, suggested that those theoretical elements were essential to the course work.

The A.P. course “is a corrective, it is an intervention, it is an expansion,” she said. “And for it to be true to the mission of telling the true history, it cannot exclude intersectionality, it cannot exclude critical thinking about race.”

She spoke in an interview before the final curriculum was released, but had seen an early draft, which included a now-omitted reference to her widely cited journal article “Mapping the Margins.” In the late 1980s, Ms. Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality,” which refers to the way various forms of inequality often work together, and was a word to which Florida objected, saying it is foundational to critical race theory.

(Video) The College Board releases AP African American Studies Framework

Ms. Crenshaw said she was stunned when she saw that the Florida Department of Education had targeted topics related to intersectionality, Black feminism and queer theory. “African American history is not just male. It’s not just straight. It’s not just middle class,” she said. “It has to tell the story of all of us.”

More than 200 faculty members in African American studies condemned Governor DeSantis’s interference in the A.P. course in a letter published in Medium on Tuesday. They accused him of censorship and of trying “to intimidate the College Board into appeasement.”

A.P. exams have incited conflict before. A U.S. History curriculum guide in 2014 had to be revised after it was attacked for calling Ronald Reagan “bellicose” toward the Soviet Union and giving more prominence to a Native American chief than to Ben Franklin.

Ilya Shapiro, director of Constitutional Studies at the Manhattan Institute, said he did not object to topics like the Black Panthers and the Black is Beautiful movement being included because “that’s certainly part of what was America.”

But if the curriculum was going to embrace theory, he said, the draft curriculum should have named conservative Black thinkers like John McWhorter, Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell.

There are hints that the College Board is embedding some of the disputed material, without being explicit about it. “Intersectionality” is cited eight times in the draft curriculum, but only once in the new version, as an optional topic for a project.

But the concept seems to sneak into required course content, under the heading of essential knowledge, referencing the writers Gwendolyn Brooks and Mari Evans, who “explore the lived experience of Black women and men and show how their race, gender and social class can affect how they are perceived, their roles and their economic opportunities.”

(Video) College Board Bends the Knee to Ron DeSantis, Censors African American Studies Course

Acceptance for the new curriculum is important to the College Board, a nonprofit, because A.P. courses are a major source of revenue. The Board took in more than $1 billion in program service revenue in 2019, of which more than $490 million came from “AP and Instruction,” according to its tax-exempt filing.

Teachers who are trying out the draft curriculum said it has been popular.

“I had an interest meeting during lunch and my room was full, standing room only,” said Nelva Wiliamson, a teacher at Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy, a public all-girls school in Houston which is majority Black and Hispanic.

Sharon Courtney, a high school teacher piloting the course in New York State, said the backlash frustrated her, as every teacher tweaks and refines a new curriculum.

“You’re critiquing something that isn’t finished,” she said. “Wait until I cook the meal.”

The post The College Board Strips Down Its A.P. Curriculum for African American Studies appeared first on New York Times.


What is the AP African American studies curriculum? ›

The course will be dedicated solely to learning about and researching the African diaspora and is designed to elevate African-American history and education. Starting in the 2023–2024 school year, the pilot course will expand to approximately 200 schools.

How many core subjects are part of African American studies Black Studies? ›

This course is designed to engage students in the study of the seven core areas of Black studies: Black History, Black Sociology, Black Religion, Black Economics, Black Politics, Black Psychology, and the humanities (Black Literature, Art and Music).

What is African American studies in college? ›

The College Board says African American studies is an interdisciplinary approach, with the rigors of scholarly inquiry, to analyze the history, culture, and contributions of people of African descent in the U.S., and throughout the African diaspora.

Is African American studies a good major? ›

An African American studies major offers students a plethora of transferable skills. Critical Thinking Skills: Ability to think independently, read critically, and write analytically. Research Skills: How to apply theoretical approaches to research questions, locate and interpret data, and define problems.

Is AP lit the hardest AP class? ›

AP English Literature and Composition is considered very hard, with class alumnae rating it 7.5/10 for overall difficulty (the 2nd-most-difficult out of the 28 large AP classes surveyed). The pass rate is higher than other AP classes, with 78% graduating with a 3 or higher.

What is the difference between Black Studies and African American studies? ›

Black studies and Africana studies differ primarily in that Africana studies focuses on Africanity and the historical and cultural issues of Africa and its descendants, while Black studies was designed to deal with the uplift and development of the black (African-American) community in relationship to education and its ...

What is the most popular major for Black students? ›

Law and public policy is the top major group for African Americans with a Bachelor's degree. The highest concentrated detailed major among African Americans is in health and medical administration.

How long is a PhD in African American studies? ›

Program Format & Curriculum

Students have seven years to satisfy their requirements for the PhD program, which can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis.

What is the goal of African American Studies? ›

The core objectives of the African American Studies Department are to interrogate the multiple dimensions of race, slavery and colonialism, and their continued political, social and cultural significance.

Why is the study of African Studies Important? ›

Studying African history and politics gives us a deeper understanding of world history and especially of current events. For example, the profits the United States reaped from the trans-Atlantic slave trade jumpstarted our industrial revolution and laid the economic foundations of this nation.

Why was African American Studies created? ›

The discipline of African American Studies was birthed out of the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Power Movement of the 1960s. As integration was implemented at predominantly white schools across the nation, African American students began to demand that their education reflected their history.

What is the hardest degree to get in America? ›

Introducing the 13 Hardest College Majors
  • #8: Biochemistry or Biophysics. ...
  • #7: Astronomy. ...
  • #6: Physics. ...
  • #5: Cell and Molecular Biology. ...
  • #4: Biomedical Engineering. ...
  • #3: Aero and Astronautical Engineering. ...
  • #2: Chemical Engineering. ...
  • #1: Architecture. Average Hours Spent Preparing for Class Each Week: 22.20.
Feb 10, 2021

Why are African American students still not majoring in accounting? ›

About one-third of the students who did not choose accounting as major indicated that they nevertheless seriously considered it. The majority of these did not pursue the major because they believed that accounting was too hard and too time consuming to learn.

What percentage of Black Americans have a bachelor's degree? ›

Roughly four-in-ten African-born Black adults ages 25 and older (41%) have a bachelor's degree or higher as of 2019, while roughly a quarter (23%) of Caribbean-born Black adults in the same age range have earned at least a bachelor's degree.

What is the most failed AP exam? ›

The most failed AP exams are Physics 1 (failed by 48.4% of all students), Environmental Science (failed by 46.6% of all students), and Chemistry (failed by 43.9% of all students). For a full chart of the hardest AP exams (those with the lowest passing rate), check out this site.

What is the easiest AP to pass? ›

Top 10 Easiest AP Classes by Exam Pass Rate
  • Physics C: Mechanics. 84.3% 41.6%
  • Calculus BC. 81.6% 44.6%
  • Spanish Literature. 75.1% 17.6%
  • Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism. 74.4% 40.4%
  • Physics 2. 73.3% 14.0%
  • Computer Science Principles. 71.6% 10.9%
  • Psychology. 71.3% 22.4%
  • Computer Science A. 70.4% 25.6%

What are the top 3 hardest AP classes? ›

Top 10 Hardest AP Classes by Exam Pass Rate
  • Physics 1. 51.6% 8.8%
  • Environmental Science. 53.4% 11.9%
  • Chemistry. 56.1% 10.6%
  • U.S. Government and Politics. 57.5% 15.5%
  • U.S. History. 58.7% 13.0%
  • Human Geography. 59.0% 11.8%
  • European History. 59.3% 13.7%
  • Statistics. 60.0% 16.2%

What college has the best African American Studies? ›

Best Schools for African American Studies in the United States
  • #1. Stanford University. ...
  • Yale University. New Haven, CT. ...
  • Wellesley College. Wellesley, MA. ...
  • Georgetown University. Washington, DC. ...
  • Columbia University in the City of New York. ...
  • Dartmouth College. ...
  • University of California - Los Angeles. ...
  • University of California - Davis.

Who is the father of Black Studies? ›

Nathan Hare, widely regarded as the father of Black Studies, was born in Slick, Oklahoma, on April 9, 1933. He was one of five siblings. As a child, he spent some years with his aunt in Oklahoma City before returning to his family farm where he worked as a sharecropper and tenant farmer.

Can you get a PhD in African American Studies? ›

The PhD program in African American Studies provides students with the historical background in the experiences of people of African descent, the analytic preparation to carry out rigorous empirical research, and the professional development to pursue careers in academia or beyond.

Which Ivy League is best for black students? ›

Spelman College is ranked #1 in historically black colleges and universities in the U.S., and the top Black Ivy League school.

Can a Caucasian go to HBCU? ›

HBCUs were created to support higher education for Black students nationwide. HBCUs account for 3% of colleges and universities across the country. Some HBCUs enroll up to 40% white students.

What college has the most African American students? ›

Colleges and Universities with the Largest Enrollment of Black...
  • Southern New Hampshire University (Manchester, NH): 18,900+ ...
  • Georgia State University (Atlanta, GA): 15,500+ ...
  • Grand Canyon University (Phoenix, AZ): 15,400+
  • Western Governors University (Salt Lake City, UT): 15,000+
  • Dallas College: 14,500+

What is the easiest bachelor degree to get? ›

The 16 Easiest College Majors – 2023 Rankings
  • Psychology.
  • Criminal Justice.
  • English.
  • Education.
  • Religious Studies.
  • Social Work.
  • Sociology.
  • Communications.
Nov 1, 2022

What is the easiest subject to get a bachelor's degree in? ›

The easiest degree to get includes subjects in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. Students find these less intensive than STEM college majors.

What is a degree in African studies called? ›

African American & African Studies (B.A./B.S.)

Can you finish PhD in 2 years? ›

A select group of students complete their PhDs in two years, while a tiny number of elite students can get it done in 12 months. It's hard to overstate how rare and impressive this is, but it is always a possibility. The key to a fast-track PhD is building up a strong academic CV before you even start.

How much longer is a PhD than a masters? ›

The length of time required to complete a PhD or master's degree varies. Unsurprisingly, PhDs take much longer, usually between 3–7 years. Master's degrees are usually only 1–2 years.

Can I complete my PhD in 3 years in USA? ›

Generally, it takes between 3 and 6 years to complete a PhD in the USA. In that case, students are given the master's certificate within 2- 3 years and then they can continue with their research in the next couple of years. Such courses are more common in arts and humanities related subjects.

What are the three basic areas of focus of the Black Studies mission? ›

These three areas of development are in keeping with and reflect the three areas of focus for the larger mission of the Black Studies discipline: cultural grounding, academic excellence, and social responsibility.

What is another name for African American Studies? ›

Black Studies, or Africana Studies more broadly, is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary approach to studying and understanding the experiences of African people and African-descended people across the Diaspora.

What are the seven core subject areas of Black Studies? ›

This course is designed to engage students in the study of the seven core areas of Black studies: Black History, Black Sociology, Black Religion, Black Economics, Black Politics, Black Psychology, and the humanities (Black Literature, Art, and Music).

What are the challenges facing the study of African studies? ›

The first section of this article takes stock of and discusses four interrelated challenges of African Studies: (1) the field's domination by outside, non-African, mostly Western scholars; (2) a tendency towards undifferentiated views on “Africa” with an often strongly negative tone; (3) a neglect of methodologies that ...

What are the three dimensions of African studies? ›

We outline three pathways, namely, (1) collective thinking and writing, (2) transdisciplinarity, and (3) affective community building, via which to realise and work from a critical African psychological position.

What is taught in African studies? ›

As an interdisciplinary program, we cover topic areas in history, culture, geography, economics, politics, and literature, with specific focus in areas such as feminism, development, linguistics, extractive economies, and post-colonial studies in the shaping of modern-day Africa.

What was the 1st American university to create a formalized Black Studies program? ›

The first black-studies department was started at San Francisco State College in 1968.

Why is it important for African American students to learn about their culture? ›

Learning about black history is good for all students, not just African American students. It helps end racism; it helps students and parents; it gives a full and honest view of African Americans and it helps fight xenophobic views.

What is the #1 major in the US? ›

Major Business and Management

Which major has the highest dropout rate? ›

Computing is the major with the highest college dropout rate — 10.7%. The number of dropout college students varies across degrees and majors. After computing, advertising is another field of study that many students give up on — 7.7% of them.

Which is the toughest degree in world? ›

Based on that, the toughest degrees are:
  • Chartered Accountancy.
  • Astrophysics.
  • Quantum Mechanics.
  • Law.
  • Aerospace/ Aeronautical Studies, Engineering.
  • Biomedical Studies, Neurosciences, Biochemistry.
  • Nursing.
  • Dentistry, Medicine.
Dec 16, 2022

What is the hardest accounting qualification? ›

The CIMA qualification is more demanding, as it does not let you move forward until you pass one set of exams, compared with ACCA which allows you to study towards multiple sets of exams simultaneously. This qualification is more challenging overall, and for this reason, it is highly respected by employers.

What is the lowest degree in accounting? ›

Bachelor's programs will typically be more selective than associate's programs, but in order to become an accountant, a bachelor's in accounting is usually the minimum requirement, whereas bookkeepers and accounting clerks typically start with an associate degree in accounting.

Are accounting majors declining? ›

The number of U.S. students who completed a bachelor's degree in accounting declined nearly 9% to about 52,500 in 2020, down from almost 57,500 in 2012, according to the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

What percent of Black have a master's degree? ›

The most common ethnicity of masters is White (66.8%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (16.5%), Black or African American (9.5%) and Asian (4.5%).

What percentage of the Black population has a Phd? ›

Doctoral Student Race
Doctoral Student RacePercentages
Hispanic or Latino16.7%
Black or African American10.5%
2 more rows
Sep 9, 2022

What percent of African Americans have master's degrees? ›

The percentage of all master's degrees earned by blacks has increased from 5 percent in 1985 to 9.1 percent today.

What subject is African American studies? ›

African American Studies is an interdisciplinary major that examines race, culture, and struggles for equality rooted in the experiences of people of African descent in Black Atlantic societies including the United States, the Caribbean, Latin America, Europe, and Africa.

What do you learn in intro to African American studies? ›

The introduction to African American Studies, which currently satisfies a General Education Requirement, traces the African American experience, which spans four hundred years from the colonization of the US and the installation of trans-Atlantic slavery to the present day.

What is African American Studies in high school? ›

The course is designed to help students understand the past and present struggles and contributions of Black, Asian, Latino, Native/Indigenous Americans and other groups that have experienced racism and marginalization in the U.S.

What do most Black college students major in? ›

  • Psychology and Social Work. Health.
  • Business. Social Sciences.
  • Computers, Statistics, and Mathematics. Communications and Journalism.
  • Physical Sciences. Biology and Life Sciences.
  • Industrial Arts, Consumer Services, and Recreation. Education.
  • Humanities and Liberal Arts. Architecture and Engineering.
  • Arts.

What do most African Americans study in college? ›

Law and public policy is the top major group for African Americans with a Bachelor's degree. The highest concentrated detailed major among African Americans is in health and medical administration.

What jobs can you get with African American Studies? ›

Jobs Directly Related to the Field of African and African American Studies
  • University Professor.
  • University Administrator.
  • High School Teacher.
  • Historian.
  • Guidance Counselor.

Can you get a PhD in African American studies? ›

The PhD program in African American Studies provides students with the historical background in the experiences of people of African descent, the analytic preparation to carry out rigorous empirical research, and the professional development to pursue careers in academia or beyond.

What is the goal of African American studies? ›

The core objectives of the African American Studies Department are to interrogate the multiple dimensions of race, slavery and colonialism, and their continued political, social and cultural significance.

Who started African American Studies? ›

The department at Brandeis was one of the first. Nathan Hare, a professor at San Francisco State University, in 1968 founded the first Black Studies program, which, a year later, became a full-fledged department. Over the next five years, black studies was introduced at more than 600 colleges.

What are the oldest Black Studies departments? ›

In 1968, after a diverse, student-led protest, San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) founded the first Black Studies Department — now known as the Africana Studies Department.


1. New AP African American studies curriculum faces some criticism
(CBS New York)
2. NOW Tonight - Feb. 1 | NBC News NOW
(NBC News)
3. Tyre Nichols funeral, College Board buckles to Desantis on Black Studies, Miss Coppin St. Blasted…
(Roland S. Martin)
4. Hallie Jackson NOW - Feb. 1 | NBC News NOW
(NBC News)
5. Tyre Nichols' funeral held, Fed raises interest rates, more | Prime Time with John Dickerson
(CBS News)
6. Ron DeSantis Blocks AP African American Studies; Admin Claims It "Lacks Educational Value"
(Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Duane Harber

Last Updated: 01/27/2023

Views: 5833

Rating: 4 / 5 (51 voted)

Reviews: 90% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Duane Harber

Birthday: 1999-10-17

Address: Apt. 404 9899 Magnolia Roads, Port Royceville, ID 78186

Phone: +186911129794335

Job: Human Hospitality Planner

Hobby: Listening to music, Orienteering, Knapping, Dance, Mountain biking, Fishing, Pottery

Introduction: My name is Duane Harber, I am a modern, clever, handsome, fair, agreeable, inexpensive, beautiful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.