Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Brown professors react to altered AP African American Studies curriculum

New curriculum leaves out scholars associated with queer theory, Black feminism, critical race theory

<p>For Noliwe Rooks, professor of Africana studies and department chair, the new curriculum reflects the politicization of education, she said.</p><p></p><p></p>

For Noliwe Rooks, professor of Africana studies and department chair, the new curriculum reflects the politicization of education, she said.

On Feb. 1, the College Board announced a revised curriculum for its AP African American Studies course.

The course, announced last August, promised a multidisciplinary look at Black history in the U.S. for 60 pilot schools beginning in fall 2022. But the preliminary plans for the course changed with the Feb. 1 announcement of official plans for the course’s curriculum— which eliminated the work of scholars associated with queer theory, Black feminism and critical race theory.

Those changes came after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans for the state to ban the course for what he called a “political agenda,” while the state’s department of education raised concerns about the course’s coverage of topics such as Black feminism and reparations. 

But in a Feb. 11 statement, the College Board stated that it “had no negotiations about the content of this course with Florida or any other state, nor did (it) receive any requests, suggestions or feedback” in a press release Saturday. In the same statement, the College Board also denounced the Florida Department of Education’s response to the original curriculum. 


Professor Noliwe Rooks, chair of the Department of Africana Studies, said that the updated curriculum reflects the state of national politics and the politicization of education.

The changes are “very much part of the upcoming 2024 presidential elections,” she said, describing the changing curriculum as a “site of battle” for American politics.

According to Rooks, the debate over the curriculum comes down to a question of "what you teach." 

“How do you teach the vast history of an African diaspora? What do you focus on, past and present?” she said. “These are some of the questions that scholars spent over a decade working on.”

The course has been under development for “more than a decade,” according to a College Board website.

According to an email to The Herald from College Board Director of Communications Jerome White last March, the College Board welcomed 200 college professors to preview a draft of the first unit of the course and a “high-level outline” for the rest of the course last March. 

Rooks said that the existence of the course, prior to the revisions, is "fabulous" and could supplement the existing AP U.S. History and World History courses, adding that a significant contribution of the course is “acknowledging the centrality of Black people to American history.”

Françoise Hamlin, associate professor of Africana studies and history, was one of the many scholars who went to Washington, D.C. last spring to preview the curriculum, she said. 

Hamlin said that the current state of education on African American history in the U.S. is “lacking,” noting the importance of incorporating African American studies into students’ history curriculums.

The changes to the course, she said, are cause for concern.


“We need to be mindful and watchful about how education has been hijacked in general,” she continued. “To think that this is not going to happen in higher education is naive. This should be a source of outrage for everyone.”

Matthew Guterl, professor of Africana studies and American studies, wrote in an email to The Herald that the course’s revised curriculum is “intellectually compromised.”

“The excision of movements and thinkers who were central to earlier drafts represents an appeasement to the DeSantis administration,” he wrote, adding that the changes are “an ominous sign of a looming, terrible future.”

The course, as it exists today, “is not sufficiently rigorous or imaginative to warrant AP credit,” he wrote. “Students in Florida — and elsewhere — deserve much better.”

Get The Herald delivered to your inbox daily.

In their statement, the College Board clarified that “contemporary events like the Black Lives Matter movement, reparations and mass incarceration were optional topics in the pilot course” — and that “scholars are essential to this course.”

“The official framework is a significant improvement, rather than a watering down,” the statement reads.

Correction: This story's caption has been updated to use correct pronouns for Noliwe Rooks.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.