Mass Incarceration

Inside the College Board’s revised African American Studies curriculum

Reparations. Black Lives Matter. Queer research.

These are just some of the ideas the School Board included in a pilot of its Superior Placement African American Research course, however which don’t seem within the remaining course supplies, launched Wednesday. Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, a Republican with presidential ambitions, beforehand introduced that he would ban the curriculum, based mostly on a draft.

The course covers a dizzying array of matters, from early West African empires to the trans-Atlantic slave commerce, the Nice Migration and Afrofuturism. However a comparability between a February 2022 draft of the framework and the ultimate model exhibits that lots of the revisions concern the ultimate and most up to date of the course’s 4 items, titled “Actions and Debates.”

Trevor Packer, who leads the Superior Placement program for the School Board, mentioned the revisions have been made not due to political stress, however after receiving suggestions from academics and faculty professors. They have been involved that the pilot course was weighted too closely towards up to date theorists, he mentioned, and never targeted sufficient on foundational historical past, similar to the traditional Nubian civilization.

Listed here are a few of the modifications, in addition to a evaluation of how the brand new course differs from normal therapies of Black historical past in American excessive colleges.

Scholarly ideas

The February 2022 draft highlighted quite a few scholarly ideas which have been focused by conservative activists. These embody intersectionality, the thought first laid out by distinguished authorized scholar Kimberlé W. Crenshaw that race, class, gender, sexuality and different identities overlap and form people’ experiences of the world; womanism, a motion centered round recognizing the Black, feminine expertise; and queer research.

A lot of these phrases have been eliminated.

Within the present model, “intersectionality” is talked about solely as soon as, for example of a subject for an elective remaining mission. The School Board is emphasizing the significance of those initiatives, that are supposed to take up three weeks of sophistication time and can depend for 20% of a pupil’s remaining AP rating.

In a written assertion, the School Board mentioned that given the course’s construction, academics and college students would have latitude to make the category their very own.

“Any students within the area of African American research are acceptable for examine on this course — no thought is just too daring, no concept too contentious,” it mentioned. “We’d remorse if a state regulates or blocks college students from such initiatives or any secondary supply materials of their particular person and academically free alternative.”

Nonetheless, Crenshaw’s identify doesn’t seem within the remaining framework. She can be a key thinker within the area of vital race idea, which posits that racism is embedded within the construction of the American authorized system. Whereas CRT is seldom explicitly taught exterior of universities, the time period itself has turn into an object of fixation for a lot of conservatives, who object to Ok-12 colleges emphasizing racism and different types of discrimination.

Neither model of the AP African American research curriculum talked about vital race idea.

Bringing graduate-level ideas into excessive colleges can show politically dicey even in progressive contexts. When the state of California launched a draft ethnic research curriculum in 2019 that targeted largely on the 4 teams thought of a part of college ethnic research departments — African Individuals, Latinos, Asian Individuals and Native Individuals — there was outrage from some organizations representing American Jews, Hindus and different minority teams. The state selected to revise the doc.

However Superior Placement differs from different highschool packages in that it’s explicitly designed to reveal college students to college-level ideas.

Girls and feminism

A unit on “The Black Feminist Motion and Womanism,” which beforehand highlighted intersectionality, has been renamed “Black Girls and Actions within the twentieth Century.” Whereas the time period “intersectionality” is now prevented, an identical idea stays below the heading “Overlapping Dimensions of Black Life.” The brand new framework discusses Gwendolyn Brooks and Mari Evans as writers whose work explored gender and sophistication alongside race. And the Combahee River Collective, a key Black second-wave feminist group, stays within the framework.

Nonetheless, groundbreaking Black feminine writers and leftist activists similar to bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Angela Davis and Alice Walker, who have been included within the 2022 draft, have since been excised.

Packer of the School Board famous that the work of much less controversial African American research students, similar to Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham and Henry Louis Gates Jr., had additionally been not noted of the ultimate framework, due to the choice to maneuver the course away from prescribing present-day secondary sources.

Black Lives Matter and felony justice

A complete unit on “the origins, mission and world affect of the Black Lives Matter motion and the Motion for Black Lives” has been deleted from the 2022 framework. The time period Black Lives Matter doesn’t seem within the present model of the curriculum.

Final 12 months’s draft additionally included a unit on “incarceration and abolition,” which was closely influenced by the work of Michelle Alexander, writer of “The New Jim Crow.” Alexander is a author and civil rights activist recognized for her argument that modern-day mass incarceration is, in some respects, an extension of the techniques of management established below slavery and segregation.

Alexander and her concepts, that are divisive even amongst some left-leaning students, have been faraway from the ultimate model of the course. The revised framework does recommend “crime, felony justice and incarceration” as elective mission matters.

LGBTQ matters

“Black Queer Research” was a spotlight within the 2022 draft, and it talked about three main students: Cathy Cohen, a College of Chicago political scientist and professional on race, gender and sexuality; Roderick Ferguson, a professor at Yale College who has written about homosexual rights by means of the lens of race and sophistication; and E. Patrick Johnson, founder and director of the Black Arts Initiative at Northwestern College.

The time period “queer research” and people particular person names have been deleted from the present model of the curriculum. The brand new framework does make a passing reference to midcentury civil rights chief Bayard Rustin going through discrimination as a result of he was homosexual. It briefly discusses Black lesbians feeling misplaced in each the civil rights and girls’s actions, which have been led by Black male and white feminine figures.


Arguments in favor of reparations for slavery have been highlighted in final 12 months’s draft. It cited HR 40, a congressional invoice to review reparations, and the work of Ta-Nehisi Coates, a journalist and writer who in 2014 printed “The Case for Reparations,” a groundbreaking essay in The Atlantic. That piece targeted on the residing legacies of sharecropping, redlining and different types of financial discrimination towards Black Individuals.

However the time period “reparations” seems solely as soon as within the remaining model of the curriculum, for example of an elective mission subject. Coates’ identify doesn’t seem.

The AP Course vs. Present Ok-12 Curriculums

The syllabus additionally represents, in some ways, a leap ahead from the present state of Black historical past within the Ok-12 classroom. Many states don’t require colleges to show about redlining or discrimination towards African American veterans within the administration of federal advantages by means of the GI Invoice, each of that are emphasised within the AP course. Few normal highschool historical past textbooks go into any element on thinkers like Marcus Garvey, who the School Board highlights in a unit on Black Internationalism.

The School Board additionally calls consideration to Black resistance to slavery and discrimination, together with a brand new part on Black ladies’s techniques for combating again towards rape and sexual exploitation below slavery. Critics of the American curriculum have lengthy complained that African American historical past is taught primarily as a collection of tragedies and victimizations, with tales of Black braveness, group and power elided.

Examples of Black achievement are sometimes restricted to civil rights leaders like Rosa Parks and Harlem Renaissance figures like Langston Hughes. The AP syllabus, in distinction, highlights figures like musician and actor Janelle Monáe, early coronary heart surgeon Daniel Hale Williams, and Kizzmekia Corbett, who helped lead the event of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

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