March Issue
March 31st 2023
80°F in Pasadena, CA
Scattered clouds ↑86° ↓67°
March Issue
March 31st 2023
80°F in Pasadena, CA
Scattered clouds ↑86° ↓67°

AP African American Studies: Rethought or Removed?

College Board removes critical race theory and contemporary movements from new AP curriculum


Critical race theory.

You’ve probably heard of this term before - maybe somewhere on Twitter, a New York Times article covering the Black Lives Matter movement, or in the manifesto of a social justice coalition. But have you ever seen it in the classroom?

Critical race theory (often abbreviated CRT) is the understanding that a set of systemic, institutional biases promote racism in Western society. It asks us to examine racial bias on a less individualized level - forgoing the “one bad apple” mindset, and instead recognizing the rot that’s been plaguing the apple trees for years.

Recently though, over 24 U.S. states have adopted measures against critical race theory. The attention has largely been on Florida, where the state’s governor Ron DeSantis signed the “Stop W.O.K.E. Act” (W.O.K.E. - Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees) in April of 2022, banning the teaching of CRT all together. In August of last year, College Board announced the new AP African American Studies, and DeSantis immediately vowed to ban the class from being taught in Florida, citing that it violated state law and wasn’t "historically accurate". The governor even threatened to outlaw any AP courses from the state completely.

College Board, which makes over one billion dollars on AP content from 1.5 million students every year - nearly 200,000 of them being Floridians, quickly published an edited draft of the course..

Revisions were rolled out, slashing the names of Black authors and scholars related to critical race theory. Removed were mentions of Black feminism, the Queer Black experience, and contemporary movements such as Black Lives Matter. Modern incarceration of Black Americans and the debate over reparations were also cut from the curriculum. In the original draft, “intersectionality” was a key term. In the revised edition, it appears only once.

David Coleman, the head of College Board, argues that the course’s final edits were made in December - a month before DeSantis’s threats. According to Coleman, the shifts are due to College Board’s core principles: students do better with primary sources. Critical race theorization largely comes from analyzing these sources - so the class would be made up of secondary sources, which, according to Coleman, are too dense for students to absorb. But what about the removal of first-hand accounts on the Queer Black experience? Autobiographies of Black feminists? Documentation of social movements? These are all primary sources.

Accusations have plagued College Board since the big revision. Some consider the “compromise” to be an attack on students’ academic freedom: it sends the message that political threats can succeed in silencing true history. College Board denies all accusations of “negotiations” about course content with any states, particularly Florida. “Our commitment to AP African American Studies is unwavering,” reads the company’s website. “...What makes history are the lived experiences of millions of African Americans, and the long work of scholars who have built this field.”

However, College Board’s removal of subjects vital to a complete, intersectional understanding of Black history invalidates the work of said “scholars”. Ironically enough, these decisions only highlight the necessity of critical race theory in our schooling: if we cannot discuss the problem, how can we even begin to solve it?