College Board Re-Revises its Black History A.P. Course

April 26, 2023

Soon after the College Board said it would revise its Advanced Placement African American studies course, it announced it was revising it once again.

A statement by the College Board gave no specifics about what would be changed or added back in, but it wrote on its website, “The updated framework, shaped by the development committee and subject matter experts from AP, will ensure that those students who do take this course will get the most holistic possible introduction to African American Studies.”

In its vague statement, the College Board appeared to acknowledge that in attempting to appeal to as broad a swath of students as possible—to “listen to the diversity of voices within the field”—it might instead be damaging its curricula. 

“In embarking on this effort, access was our driving principle—both access to a discipline that has not been widely available to high school students, and access for as many of those students as possible. Regrettably, along the way those dual access goals have come into conflict,” the latest statement went on.

Critics had asserted that the initially announced changes were a bow to political pressure to remove topics some people find sensitive, such as Black Lives Matter, slavery and LGBTQ issues. 

The complicated rollout of the curricula changes come as there’s been a wave of conservative laws passed by Republican Governors.

Debate over the Black history course gained national attention in the past few months when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said he would ban it from his state because, according to him, it pushes a political agenda. The College Board relies on state participation to administer its courses and tests but has denied that politics has played a role in its decision-making over curricula. 

On the other side of the discourse, some 800 scholars in African American studies have signed an open letter written in January calling on the College Board to revise its course. They’re planning a nationwide day of protest on May 3 to bolster “freedom to teach and learn”—or what they’re calling the fight against “‘Anti-Woke’ censorship.”

According to the American Library Association, the year 2022 experienced a record number of banned books—more than 1,200 across the U.S., nearly double that of 2021 and by far the most in 20 years, since the association began keeping data.

The College Board was founded in 1990 “to expand access to higher education,” its website says. It aims to help students “prepare for a successful transition to college through programs and services in college readiness and college success. The billion-dollar non-profit administers SAT and AP courses. It also aims to be a resource for educators and schools.

The College Board’s AP African American studies course was launched in 60 U.S. schools and was set to be expanded to 800 schools and 16,000 students this upcoming school year.

PHOTO: Civil Rights March on Washington, August 28, 1965

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